The Administration announced the release of $20 million in COVID-19 relief funds for states to make improvements to their ACA marketplace systems. State-based Marketplaces (SBMs) allow potential health insurance customers to buy or make adjustments to their current health insurance. The March COVID-19 relief package expanded tax credits that have the effect of drastically reducing monthly premiums for most people qualifying through the ACA. The Biden Administration has greatly expanded the enrollment period, which had been limited by the Trump Administration to a six-week open enrollment from November to December.
Under this funding opportunity, up to 21 cooperative agreement grants can be awarded to approved SBMs that meet the application requirements, including those that use HealthCare.gov for eligibility and enrollment. SBMs can prioritize funding to make modifications to systems or technology infrastructure related to the implementation of federal requirements. This includes changes needed so that consumers can quickly receive a new eligibility determination that allows access to the increased premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions available through the March relief measure. This includes consumer notifications, consumer education or other assistance activities, stakeholder education or training, state and federal reporting, call center or appeal supports, staff training, and oversight and monitoring activities.
In making the announcement, new CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said, “This funding available to states will help them to provide consumers with swift eligibility determinations and enrollment into comprehensive health care plans. We applaud State-based Marketplaces – many of which have provided opportunities for special enrollment periods during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency – for their hard work.”
According to CMS, these state-run marketplaces enrolled over 3.8 million consumers in Marketplace coverage so far this 2021 plan year. Most consumers are now eligible for increased savings to reduce monthly premium payments, and many may be eligible for lower out-of-pocket costs, such as lower deductibles, due to changes made through the March COVID legislation.
Applications from eligible SBM applicants will be due on July 20, 2021. CMS anticipates issuing grant awards in early September 2021. The period of performance for this grant will be from the award date through September 30, 2022. To view the Notice of Funding Opportunity, visit https://www.grants.gov, and search for CFDA # 93.525.