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Biden order leads to surge in Oklahomans buying health insurance

Hush Naidoo / Unsplash
Hush Naidoo / Unsplash

Nearly 3,800 Oklahomans purchased health insurance on the federal exchange after the Biden administration opened enrollment in mid-February to anyone needing coverage.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported Wednesday that 3,796 Oklahomans selected health insurance plans between Feb. 15 and Feb. 28. In the same period last year, 1,737 Oklahomans selected private health care plans from the federal marketplace.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order last month to reopen enrollment through from Feb. 15 through May 15. In the first two weeks, 206,236 people in 36 states bought health insurance plans through, according to CMS. Those states are the ones without their own health insurance exchanges.

In previous years, special enrollment periods were only open to people who had a qualifying event, such as a job loss affecting coverage, after the normal enrollment deadline, which was Dec. 15 last year.

According to CMS data, 171,551 Oklahomans purchased plans or were automatically reenrolled during the open enrollment period that ended in December; the figure does not represent the total number of people covered, since family members are often included in a selected plan.

Biden said Wednesday, “On February 15, my administration opened for three months to provide all Americans the opportunity to sign up for health insurance through a special enrollment period. In the two weeks since, more than 200,000 Americans have gotten covered. These numbers are an encouraging sign but we can’t slow down until every American has the security and peace of mind that quality, affordable health coverage provides.”

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma has seen an increase in interest to sign up for a health plan in comparison to this time last year, the company said Wednesday, adding that its Mobile Assistance Center team has been helping Oklahomans enroll in-person and virtually. Plans are being offered in all 77 counties.

“As the state’s oldest and largest not-for-profit health insurer, we are committed to providing quality, cost-effective coverage to every person in Oklahoma,” said BCBSOK President Joseph R. Cunningham, M.D. “I urge Oklahomans to look at their options and get covered in these unpredictable times, now more than ever.”

The $1.9 trillion spending package approved by the House on Saturday would make more Americans eligible for subsidies to purchase health care plans through exchanges; it would also cap the annual amount that anyone would have to pay for those plans. The Senate is expected to take up the package this week.

Chris Casteel

Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. Casteel covered the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City. From 1990 through 2016, he was the... Read more ›