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Pennie, the state-affiliated health insurance marketplace, will extend enrollment period due to COVID-19

The Special Enrollment Period will run from Feb. 15 through May 15, the Pennie said on its website.
Credit: Pennie

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennie, the state-affiliated health insurance marketplace, announced Wednesday it is opening a Special Enrollment Period to allow anyone impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic more time to enroll in coverage. 

The Special Enrollment Period will run from Feb. 15 through May 15, the marketplace said on its website.

"By the end of Pennie's inaugural Open Enrollment nearly 338,000 Pennsylvanians enrolled in coverage, a more than 5,000 increase over last year," Pennie said in its announcement. "Over 75,000 new customers enrolled in coverage through Pennie, a 9.7 percent year-over-year increase. Through the implementation of a state-based marketplace and the premium savings realized through the Pennsylvania Reinsurance Program, the Commonwealth has expanded access to quality health coverage, seamlessly transitioned from Healthcare.Gov and connected more customers to the financial assistance for which they were eligible."

Pennie said its Board of Directors approved the Special Enrollment Period because of the continued public health risks associated with COVID-19 in the commonwealth. The decision is also in-line with a recent executive order signed by President Joe Biden, the announcement said.

“Pennie is first and foremost here for all of those in Pennsylvania who need health coverage," said Pennie executive director Zachary W. Sherman. "We are happy to see our customer base grow and proud to serve hundreds of thousands of individuals and families across the Commonwealth.

“Pennie’s support does not end with Open Enrollment. The economic and public health implications of the pandemic have been and continue to be destabilizing, impacting the lives of so many Pennsylvanians. Anyone without health insurance will have more time to sign up through Pennie, giving those eligible access to financial assistance and comprehensive coverage, including for COVID-19 related treatment and services."

Uninsured Pennsylvanians can visit pennie.com to explore their options and get coverage, Sherman added.

Pennie said nearly nine of 10 of its customers receive financial assistance, and the savings increased this year. Average monthly premiums decreased 4 percent year-over-year and customers receiving Advance Premium Tax Credits are paying 13.5 percent on average less this year.  

The average monthly APTC for eligible customers is $515, Pennie said.

Through Pennie’s ‘no wrong door’ policy, over 44,000 households were transferred to either Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program for more significant savings, Pennie said.

In return, Pennie is currently helping over 30,000 households who were denied Medicaid and CHIP to enroll in the best plan for them and their families through pennie.com.   

Nearly 307,000 calls were handled by the Pennie Call Center throughout Open Enrollment, from November 1, 2020 through January 15 of this year, with an average wait time of just over two minutes. 

Customers were also provided free assistance when choosing a plan through Pennie’s certified Brokers and Assisters. Over 80,000 customers enrolled through Pennie-certified experts.   

“Transitioning to a state-based marketplace and launching a reinsurance program allowed Pennsylvania to reclaim ownership of our individual health insurance market to the benefit of Commonwealth resident," said Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman. "Based on the choices customers made during open enrollment, the average plan cost through Pennie is 4 percent lower than last year and eligible Pennsylvanians are receiving $515 on average in financial assistance every month. 

“Becoming a state-based marketplace also allows us the flexibility to provide more time for individuals to receive coverage due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope any Pennsylvanian without health insurance will seek coverage to protect themselves and their families from the cost of COVID-19.” 

All commercial, comprehensive health insurance plans available in the Commonwealth, including plans purchased through Pennie, cover: 

  • the COVID-19 test if patients are experiencing symptoms or has had an indication of exposure
  • treatment for the symptoms that develop due to COVID-19
  • the cost of the COVID-19 vaccine
  • all other routine check-ups, vaccinations, and preventative treatments

Anyone who experiences a qualifying life event is eligible to enroll in a plan through Pennie throughout the year. Anyone seeking insurance due to the impact of COVID-19 can shop for coverage starting February 15. Pennie encourages anyone who has found themselves recently uninsured and is seeking coverage, and potentially financial assistance, to go to pennie.com or to call Pennie customer care at 1-844-844-8040.  

Antoinette Kraus, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network and member of the Pennie Board of Directors, released the following statement in response to the news that Pennie was reopening its marketplace:

"We applaud Pennie's decision to reopen the state's health insurance marketplace in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in many thousands of Pennsylvanians losing their health coverage. The health insurance marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act remains a critical tool for ensuring that Pennsylvanians can get health coverage, especially in the midst of economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

We encourage Pennsylvanians who are uninsured or who have lost their job-based coverage to visit Pennie.com and review the plans available in their area between February 15 and May 15. Tax credits and financial assistance are available; 9 out of 10 Pennsylvanians qualify. PHAN's free helpline is available to answer questions and help people select a plan at 877-570-3642.”

RELATED: SNEAK PEAK: Pennsylvania's new website for health insurance