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Published on February 19, 2021

Extended Open Enrollment Gives People Second Chance at Health Insurance


Starting Feb. 15, people will get a second chance to easily get insured for 2021 in a national call to increase access to health insurance.  

Individuals and families can enroll in plans through the federal Marketplace at and directly with Avera Health Plans for non-employer group insurance Feb. 15 – Aug. 15.

The extended open enrollment period is a result of an Executive Order from President Joe Biden. The order was declared due to the decrease in access to health care and insurance this past year due to the COVID-19 national emergency. The goal is to provide people who are uninsured one more chance to take up the option.

“This unprecedented action is a result of the hardships people are going through with job losses and COVID-19 diagnoses and treatments that can be long-term and costly,” said Deb Muller, CEO of Avera Health Plans and DAKOTACARE. “It’s a really important opportunity for people to get insured at a time that they typically can’t do so.”

The government typically holds an open enrollment period for several weeks at the end of the calendar year when anyone can enroll in an individual health insurance plan. If you miss that period you have to wait until next year or have a qualifying life event such as a job change, getting married, turning age 26 or having a baby.

It’s estimated that 80,000 people in South Dakota were uninsured in 2019, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. This paired with the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that some people have lost insurance, putting families in a tough position. The median cost for hospitalization to treat COVID-19 ranges from $34,663 for those ages 23-30 to a high of $45,683 for the 51-60 age group, according to a FAIR Health study.

What you need to know about this extended open enrollment period:

  • It does not include employer groups.
  • You can apply to see if you’re eligible for tax credits and subsidies through to lower monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs. In some cases, this can lower your monthly premium by hundreds of dollars.
  • You can change plans if you need a different level of coverage. Payments already made toward your deductible or for out-of-pocket costs would be credited to your new plan.
  • In most instances your insurance would start the first day of the month after you finalize enrollment.
  • If you’re pregnant or diagnosed with COVID-19 and need insurance coverage, you could enroll and be covered within weeks.

“Our hope is that more people will take the time to consider the cost of insurance and get the coverage they need,” Muller said. “This is not a time when people should take a chance on their health coverage.”

Avera Health Plans is also creating an open enrollment Feb. 1 – May 15 for Medicare-eligible people to enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan, with no questions asked – in South Dakota and Iowa. This means there will be no underwriting or inquiries about health and chronic conditions.

People can also take advantage of Avera Health Plans 12% household discount for Medicare Select Plan G Supplement, if they live with someone 60 years old or older.

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