New Jersey took an important step towards improving access to health care when Governor Murphy signed legislation (A674/S1646) creating the Easy Enrollment program last month. This new program takes tax filing forms and unemployment claim applications and turns them into opportunities for uninsured residents to enroll in affordable health care coverage — all by checking a box.
With the Easy Enrollment program set to start at the end of 2022, uninsured residents who are filing taxes or an application for unemployment benefits can expect to:
- Check a box on their tax form or unemployment benefits application indicating they would like information about how to enroll in affordable coverage.
- Receive information from the Department of Human Services or Department of Banking and Insurance on their eligibility for NJ FamilyCare or GetCoveredNJ coverage.
- Enroll in a coverage plan within the special enrollment period.
- Avoid future fees for not having insurance by remaining enrolled for the rest of the calendar year.
Streamlining Enrollment Helps Those Facing Daily Barriers
Streamlining the enrollment process will make it much easier for uninsured residents to sign up for comprehensive health coverage, especially those who face information and time barriers to enrolling. Many of the nearly 700,000 residents who remain uninsured face language barriers or technical barriers in the enrollment process. Others have difficulty finding the time to enroll or gathering information about which plans are best for them, as they may work long or unpredictable hours, have long commutes, or have an unpredictable income and are unsure which coverage they can afford. Additionally, residents may be facing an abrupt end to existing coverage. In the case of young adults, they may be newly uninsured after being on their parents’ plan; for others who have been employed, they may face sudden loss of existing coverage after losing their job.
Maryland’s Easy Enrollment program, which began in 2020 and inspired many aspects of New Jersey’s program, has already succeeded in lowering these types of barriers for uninsured residents. The success of Maryland’s Easy Enrollment program is a good sign that the new program in New Jersey will result in more residents gaining health coverage, especially those who are often young, have low and perhaps seasonal income, and who may speak English as a second language or face other application barriers.
Simply Check the Box: Getting Info About Enrollment Will Be Easier Than Ever
Like Maryland’s program, New Jersey’s Easy Enrollment is designed to be as simple as possible: By adding a checkbox on tax forms and unemployment benefit applications, the state will provide residents with opportunities to enroll in affordable insurance they qualify for.
Each resident who checks this box will have their eligibility for different coverage options and subsidies confirmed based on their tax filing or unemployment application. Those participating in the program will then receive information about which coverage applies to them — whether it’s NJ FamilyCare (Medicaid and CHIP) coverage or coverage through GetCoveredNJ (the state health insurance marketplace) — and a special enrollment period of at least 30 days will begin. During that period, the resident can enroll in the coverage they choose and, in the case of marketplace plans, receive subsidies to lower the cost.
Additionally, if a resident enrolls in coverage through this program and remains enrolled for the rest of that calendar year, they will no longer have to pay the Shared Responsibility Payment, a fee paid by those who do not have health insurance coverage, as required by New Jersey’s individual mandate law.
Once the Easy Enrollment program is in full effect, enrolling in health coverage will be easier than ever for uninsured residents in New Jersey.