Open Enrollment Under the Affordable Care Act is Nov. 1 Through Dec. 15. Are You Ready?

Open Enrollment Under the Affordable Care Act is Nov. 1 Through Dec. 15. Are You Ready?

By Sonya Schwartz, Sonya & Partners LLC and NILC
November 1, 2017

This year’s open enrollment for health insurance in the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s/Obamacare’s) marketplace begins on Wednesday, Nov. 1, so it’s time to get the word out!

It’s not going to be easy to keep enrollment numbers strong this year. The Trump administration limited open enrollment for the federal health insurance marketplace to only six weeks—Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, 2017—and dramatically reduced federal funding for marketing and enrollment assistance. (Note that some state marketplaces have longer open enrollment periods and that Medicaid and CHIP* are open all-year round). And, due to federal efforts to repeal and replace the ACA and dismantle cost-sharing subsidies, many people—including people in immigrant families—do not know that the marketplace still exists or that health plans are still offered in their state.

Couple these barriers with the fear caused by the administration’s immigration policies and increased enforcement activity, and it’s likely that immigrant families will be particularly reticent about applying for or renewing coverage. So it will be more important than ever to reach out to immigrant families who may be eligible for coverage.

Although immigrant families’ concerns may be heightened, the laws and policies about immigrants’ eligibility for health coverage have not changed. And assisters need to be prepared to answer questions about whether it is safe to apply. For this purpose, we created a new tool, Tips for Addressing Immigrant Families Concerns When Applying for Health Coverage Programs. Some key highlights to keep in mind include:

  • Longstanding privacy protections are still in place that require all the federally funded health coverage programs to keep information private and secure, and assisters are also required by law to keep information private and secure.
  • Household members who are not applying for health insurance for themselves should not provide information about their immigration or citizenship status.
  • Medicaid, CHIP and ACA marketplace subsidies are not considered in screening for “public charge” (except for Medicaid for long-term institutional care).

The tool also includes tips for talking about immigration status, details about coverage options for people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and a link to a number of related resources including:

  • a detailed guide to who is lawfully present and eligible for coverage under the ACA
  • a resource about medical assistance programs for immigrants in various states
  • know-your-rights information about health care providers and immigration enforcement.

At the end of the day, people in immigrant families will have to make the best decisions for themselves about applying for health coverage. But we hope these materials help assisters provide the best possible information when working with immigrant families.


*CHIP: Children’s Health Insurance Program