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New Administration Opens ACA Marketplace for Special Enrollment Period

By Kristin Marie Ferguson, DNP, RN, OCN

February 16, 2021
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Update, 3/24/21: The Biden Administration announced on March 23 that it will extend the open enrollment period for an additional three months, until August 15, to allow more Americans an opportunity to enroll in or change their plan.

On February 15, 2021, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services took an important step in broadening access to health insurance coverage by opening healthcare.gov for a special enrollment period that runs through May 15, 2021. Healthcare organizations and patient financial advocates are praising this executive order by President Biden, which is coming at a time when many have lost their jobs and subsequently their employer-sponsored health insurance. Many states that operate their own websites to enroll residents in the healthcare exchange have also opened. 

“By opening the health insurance marketplace, President Biden is providing our patients with options they did not have available to them before,” says Lori Schneider, chair of ACCC’s Financial Advocacy Network and oncology operations manager at Green Bay Oncology. “It is imperative that all cancer centers review and discuss these options with their patients to help prevent  financial toxicity.” 

Biden’s executive order will open the Health Insurance Marketplace for the states that use the federal marketplace website (healthcare.gov) for enrollment. To help ensure all people are aware of and have access to healthcare.gov, the Biden administration has directed federal agencies to review any policies that may make it more difficult for people to enroll in Medicaid programs.

Having access to primary and preventive health services are essential to expanding access to cancer screenings, which have seen a steep decline since the dawn of COVID-19. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that nearly 9 million uninsured Americans may qualify for free or subsidized health insurance with the opening of the Affordable Care Act Marketplace.  


“During these turbulent times, it is especially important that our patients have various avenues to obtain healthcare coverage,” says Francinna Scott-Jones, ROCC, CPAR, financial coordinator at Northside Hospital in Atlanta, GA. “Being diagnosed with cancer can be devastating, so knowing you have an additional resource to obtain adequate insurance coverage can decrease some of that anxiety.” 


ACCC’s Financial Advocacy Network is committed to reducing the financial toxicity patients face while undergoing treatment for cancer. We regularly produce timely tools and resources for financial advocates that can help them better assist patients who need help applying for insurance, reducing the amount of their copays, and obtaining the best care. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that the number of people employed will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024. Financial advocates for those with cancer are watching closely to see what new initiatives the Biden Administration will put forth to improve the quality of cancer care and address the financial toxicity that many with cancer face.  


Additional information can be found at: 



Kristin Marie Ferguson, DNP, RN, OCN, is the Senior Director of Cancer Care Delivery & Health Policy at ACCC.

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