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NY State of Health, together with the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS), recently announced that New York will make a Special Enrollment Period available until May 15th to New Yorkers during which eligible individuals will be able to enroll in insurance coverage through NY State of Health and directly through brokers like the North Country Chamber of Commerce. This step is being taken in light of the Coronavirus pandemic to further protect the public health of New Yorkers.  

NY State of Health, DFS, and New York State health insurers are taking this action 
so that individuals do not avoid seeking testing or medical care for fear of cost. 

Individuals who are eligible for other NY State of Health programs (ex. Medicaid, Essential Plan and Child Health Plus) can enroll year-round.  

NEW ANNOUNCEMENT: Special Enrollment Allowed for Group Policies

Effective immediately, to support our community in response to COVID-19, most insurance companies are offering Open Enrollment for all commercial groups of all funding arrangement types. 

Commercial members can enroll in their respective employer group medical and dental plans where they don’t already have coverage today.   

  • Currently, this applies to new subscriber adds and dependent adds who do not have coverage today. 
  • New subscribers and dependents can be added into an existing group plan without a qualifying event. 
  • Rehires: We will enroll them without a waiting period if the employer requests; use their original date of hire.
  • New hires: This COVID-19 special enrollment period overrides new hire probationary periods. 
  • Dental enrollments are also allowed, but the standard timely entrant logic will apply. 

What does your company need to know about group health insurance and the COVID-19 Pandemic?

  • At this time you should refer to and implement your company's internal policies regarding keeping employees on your health insurance during a lay off or a medically imposed quarantine.  Your internal company policy should dictate whether an employee can keep their health insurance during a lay off or if it needs to be cancelled. It is the company's obligation to collect the employee’s portion of the premium. 
  • Premium payments are still required to keep policies active, there may be a grace period, but you must contact your Health Insurance's Accounts Receivable department for details or to set up payment options beyond that grace period. This is considered on a case by case basis. Premiums are not being waived at this time. 
  • COBRA insurance will be offered to any employee you remove from your policy. COBRA is the same plan you currently offer your employees at the same rate, but they are responsible for the premium payment.
  • Employees need to be aware that when they have a loss of insurance coverage they get one special enrollment period. If they use that to enroll in COBRA they cannot then decide later to move to the NYS Individual Marketplace unless they qualify for other reasons – such as reduced income making them eligible for a state funded plan such as Medicaid or the Essential Plan which offer year round enrollment.  

ATTENTION BUSINESS OWNERS: Guidelines for Health Insurance Cancellation

  • If you have reduced your workforce and need to cancel insurance benefits for those employees, be sure to reach out to your broker or contact from the insurance company if you do not have a broker.
  • You will need to provide a written request – an email or termination form to cancel coverage including your group number, the names of individuals laid off and the date you want the coverage to be cancelled. Individual cancellation paperwork is not necessary.
  • If you have access to your group account online cancellations can also be made online electronically.
  • Your company policy will dictate when you cancel coverage – such as the date of lay off or the end of the month etc.

Cost Relief Available With Mid-Year Plan Changes For Groups

Excellus BCBS and most insurance plans want to ensure as many group members as possible can maintain their health insurance benefits. Through June 1, 2020, some plans are allowing mid-year plan changes to allow for lower cost employer and employee plans to accommodate the COVID-19 impacts on both parties.

Groups can:

  • Allow their employees to switch to a lower cost existing plan OR buy down to a lower cost plan.
  • Additionally, employees who waived coverage and now want health insurance will be able to sign up for a plan through their group during a special open enrollment throughout the state of emergency.
  • Contact your account representative or broker if you would like to take advantage of any of these options or for more information on how we can help.

Contact Lisa Bedard-Dupee for additional questions or to enroll today!

Lisa Bedard-Dupee
North Country Chamber of Commerce


TELEMEDICINE: Need medical attention, but don't want to go out?

Lucky for you, most insurance plans are offering telemedicine benefits for their clients to take advantage of.  Go to your insurance company's website, create an account (if you don't have one already) and use the telemedicine feature to speak to a doctor!
If your insurance company is listed below, click to find an informational flyer on their virtual medicine opportunities:

Other things you should know:

**Please remember, all New York insurers will have waived cost-sharing for a COVID-19 testing!**

For more information on other Coronavirus related topics, visit our home page HERE.

Have questions? Let us know! Email us and we will do our best to find the answer. 

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