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RICHMOND – More Virginians who buy health insurance through HealthCare.gov (the Marketplace) may now qualify for financial help with those premiums. Virginians who already receive financial help could be eligible for additional savings on health insurance coverage following Congress’ passage of the American Rescue Plan of 2021 (ARP). 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 77,000 uninsured Virginians are newly eligible for tax credits that reduce the cost of their health insurance premiums. An estimated four out of five enrollees may be able to find a plan for $10 or less per month with these tax credits. A family of four with household income of $90,000 could see premiums reduced by approximately $200 per month.

Following a Special Enrollment Period that began earlier this year, enrollment is now open through August 15 – no qualifying life event is necessary. If you already are covered through the Marketplace, you will need to re-enroll to take advantage of the new savings. 

In Virginia, if you change from a health insurance plan not offered through the Marketplace to the same plan issued through the Marketplace, your cost-share accumulations – money you have paid out of pocket for medical services during the plan year – will transfer. Also, in Virginia, you can change to any Marketplace plan under the same insurer and your cost-share accumulations will transfer as long as the policyholder remains the same. It is important to understand, however, that when changing to a plan offered by a different insurer, your cost-share accumulations will not transfer.

“Whether you are uninsured, underinsured or looking for more savings on your health insurance, now is a great time for Virginians to review their health insurance coverage,” said Victoria Savoy, director of the Virginia Health Benefit Exchange. “The Special Enrollment Period and the American Rescue Plan offer an opportunity to save money on your health insurance premiums, increase your coverage, and sometimes both.”

NEW under ARP:

  • Many Virginians now qualify for help paying for health coverage, even if they were not eligible in the past. The previous cap of 400 percent of the federal poverty level to receive premium tax credits has been removed. Premium savings are now available that cap the cost of the benchmark plan premium at 8.5 percent of household income.
  • Most people currently enrolled in a Marketplace plan qualify for additional savings.
  • Any excess 2020 tax credits owed back under reconciliation are now forgiven. This relief may affect how you complete your 2020 tax return. The IRS issued a news release outlining this relief on April 9. Visit www.irs.gov/newsroom/news-releases-for-current-month to review the release entitled, “IRS suspends requirement to repay excess advance payments of the 2020 Premium Tax Credit; those claiming net Premium Tax Credit must file Form 8962.”
  • Consumers eligible for unemployment insurance benefits for as little as one week in 2021 may be eligible for $0 premium coverage with a low or no deductible. Visit Healthcare.gov to shop for coverage.
  • Consumers who lost their job or had hours reduced may be eligible for free COBRA benefits from April 1-September 30, 2021. If qualified, your employer should provide information by May 30, 2021.

To enroll, update or change health insurance plans during the 2021 Special Enrollment Period, visit Healthcare.gov through August 15. Current enrollees must update their account to take immediate advantage of available savings. To do that, they must log in, review their application, make any necessary changes to their information, and submit their application to receive an updated eligibility determination before continuing to enroll.

Virginians who are new to the Marketplace and want to take advantage of these cost savings should visit Healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325). Coverage begins on the first day of the month after a plan is selected. For example, coverage will start June 1, 2021, for plans selected in May.

Virginia-based navigators are available, at no charge, to help consumers shop for and enroll in health care coverage. Visit coverva.org/en/find-help-in-your-area for local help. 

For additional information about shopping for health insurance, visit the State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance website at Shopping for Health Insurance in Virginia. To learn more about the Special Enrollment Period, visit the SCC’s Health Benefit Exchange website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Details-for-Consumers.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – For Virginians enrolled in a high-deductible health insurance plan (HDHP), the State Corporation Commission’s Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) encourages residents to understand the potential benefits of opening a health savings account (HSA).

Similar to a flexible spending account (FSA), an HSA allows you (or your employer) to set aside money annually on a pre-tax basis to pay for qualified medical expenses upon enrollment in an eligible HDHP. The funds in an HSA also may be used to pay deductibles, copayments, coinsurance and other qualified health-related expenses other than premiums. Currently, consumers can contribute annually a maximum of $3,600 (individuals) or $7,200 (families) into an HSA.

HSAs are designed specifically to use with HDHPs and can be helpful since HDHPs often have both higher annual deductibles and out-of-pocket maximum limits than other types of health plans. Consumers should understand, however, that HSAs are not available for all HDHPs – which must meet minimum deductible amounts and annual out-of-pocket limits to qualify for use with an HSA. For 2021, an HDHP that qualifies for an HSA must have a deductible of at least $1,400 for an individual or $2,800 for a family. Additionally, consumers should understand that HSAs have maximum limits on annual payments. Currently, HSAs limit yearly out-of-pocket expenses (including deductibles, copayments and coinsurance) to $7,000 for an individual and $14,000 for a family for in-network services.

“HSAs may offer individuals more control over their healthcare dollars and an opportunity to lower their healthcare costs by providing an incentive for them to become more cost-conscious when utilizing medical services,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. “HSAs allow individuals to pay for current health expenses and save for future qualified medical expenses on a pre-tax basis. However, it’s important to understand exactly how they work,” he said.

If you are considering an HSA, the Bureau encourages you to keep several important things in mind.  First, HSAs are used only with high-deductible plans – and not all high-deductible plans are eligible for HSAs. Check with your health insurer to determine eligibility. Additionally, if shopping for insurance plans on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace, check to see if a high-deductible plan is HSA-eligible.

Second, health savings accounts (unlike FSAs) are owned individually. This means that, if you change jobs or insurance plans, your funds remain in your HSA. Unspent money in an HSA rolls over from one year to the next, so it can be used for future medical expenses. Additionally, if you enroll later in a health plan that is not HSA-eligible, you will not be able to make additional contributions to your HSA; however, any existing funds in your HSA can be used for qualified medical expenses. 

Third, since you own the funds in an HSA, you may withdraw money from your HSA for items other than qualified medical expenses. Consumers, however, should be aware that such withdrawals are subject to income taxation, as well as an additional 20 percent penalty tax if you are under 65 years old.

Fourth, although an HSA looks similar to an FSA, they are not the same. FSAs also allow individuals to contribute pre-tax money for qualified medical expenses, but are owned by the employer, are not as flexible as an HSA, and have smaller annual contribution limits ($2,750 in 2021). Additionally, account funds in an FSA must be used within a single year or grace period.

Finally, the Bureau encourages consumers to keep a record of healthcare transactions, including receipts for medical expenses paid with HSA funds. These receipts may help establish that your withdrawals were used for qualified medical expenses.

For questions about HDHPs used with HSAs, contact your insurance company or agent or the Bureau’s Life and Health Division toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or in Richmond at 804-371-9691. For consumer guides and other information about a variety of insurance-related topics, visit the Bureau’s website at www.scc.virginia.gov/pages/insurance

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – As the new year continues to unfold, Virginians should remain wary of scammers who may prey on investor fear and anxiety to sell fraudulent investments amid changes in financial markets and the economy due to COVID-19.

Fraudulent online investment offers involving precious metals, cryptocurrencies, promissory notes and foreign exchange markets are among the top threats facing investors this year, according to a survey by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), which is an organization composed of state securities regulators that includes the State Corporation Commission (SCC). The survey is based on responses from enforcement officials with state and provincial securities regulators throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The top threat to investors, according to the survey, is fraudulent internet or social media-based investment offers. Next on the list are fraudulent investments related to cryptocurrency and precious metals, especially those purchased through self-directed individual retirement accounts (IRAs). The third most common threat is fraudulent foreign exchange-related schemes.

This year also may see a resurgence of high-yield foreign exchange and cryptocurrency-related schemes disguised as membership or investment programs. Scammers may attempt to lure investors into these programs by promising high rates of return as a way to supplement income lost due to the pandemic.

“Bad actors continue to follow the headlines in an attempt to separate investors from their money,” said Ron Thomas, director of the SCC’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising (Division). “Not every precious metals, cryptocurrency or foreign exchange-related investment is fraudulent, but we urge investors to consider these products with caution,” he said.

Thomas urges Virginians to be wary of investment offers that sound too good to be true. The most common sign of an investment scam is an offer that guarantees high rates of return with little or no risk. “All investments carry the risk that some, or all, of the invested funds could be lost,” he said.

Before making any investment decision, Thomas encourages Virginians to do the following:

  • Ask questions and make sure you understand the investment product. Ask for details about the investment offer in writing.
  • Ask if the salesperson and the investment itself are properly licensed or registered. To confirm this, investors can call the Division in Richmond at 804-371-9051 or toll-free at 1-800-552-7945.
  • Avoid high-pressure sales tactics and “can’t miss” opportunities promising guaranteed returns or big returns with little or no risk.
  • Understand the warning signs of investment fraud.

For more information, visit the Division’s website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Consumer-Investments or the North American Securities Administrators Association’s website at https://www.nasaa.org/investor-education/fraud-center/top-investor-threats/.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – The State Corporation Commission (SCC) is offering time for members of the public to give oral comments by telephone on a request by Appalachian Power Company (APCo) to increase a rate adjustment clause that covers transmission costs.

Appalachian Power is proposing to increase its Transmission Rate Adjustment Clause (T-RAC) from $225.1 million to $337.7 million, an increase of $112.6 million effective in July 2021. For the average residential customer using 1,000 kWh per month, this request represents an increase of $11.52 per month.

Through the T-RAC, APCo collects its costs for new and existing transmission facilities and related services that APCo receives from a regional transmission organization called PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. The rates PJM charges APCo and its other members are set by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. APCo collects these charges from customers as part of the cost of providing electric service.

The SCC has scheduled a public witness session to begin at 10 a.m. on April 26, 2021, to consider the T-RAC application. Public witnesses intending to provide oral testimony must pre-register with the SCC by 5 p.m. on April 21, 2021. Witnesses will be called by SCC staff on April 26 in the order in which they registered. Testimony will be limited to five minutes per caller. The hearing will be webcast at: scc.virginia.gov/pages/Webcasting.

Public witnesses wishing to provide oral testimony may pre-register in one of three ways:

  • Completing a public witness form for case number PUR-2021-00018 on the SCC’s website at: scc.virginia.gov/pages/Webcasting
  • E-mailing the same form (PDF version on the same website as above) to SCCInfo@scc.virginia.gov
  • Calling the SCC at 804-371-9141 during normal business hours (8:15 a.m. – 5 p.m.) and providing their name and the phone number you wish the Commission to call to reach you during the hearing.

A public evidentiary hearing will follow the public witness hearing either in the SCC’s second floor courtroom in the Tyler Building at 1300 East Main Street in Richmond or by electronic means to receive testimony and evidence from the company, any respondents, and the SCC staff.

For those who prefer, there is also an opportunity to provide comments in writing on the T‑RAC application. Written comments may be submitted through the SCC’s website by April 19, 2021, at scc.virginia.gov/casecomments/Submit-Public-Comments. Simply go to the SCC website, select "Cases" and then "Submit Public Comments," and scroll down to case number PUR-2021-00018. Then click SUBMIT COMMENTS.

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Case Number PUR-2021-00018 – Application of Appalachian Power Company for approval of a rate adjustment clause T-RAC

Contact: Andy Farmer, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – Tornadoes, wind, hailstorms, flash floods, lightning and hurricanes. These are among the severe weather events that can accompany spring. No matter what the season, unpredictable weather patterns and intense weather activity are becoming increasingly common in Virginia and in many other regions.

As spring begins in less than two weeks – on March 20 – the State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) encourages Virginians to plan now for potentially extreme spring weather. “Know your risk and protect yourself financially by reviewing your insurance and updating your coverage in the event you experience property damage due to unexpected severe weather events,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. “If you have questions, contact your insurance agent or company or the Bureau of Insurance.”

The Bureau encourages Virginians to plan for severe weather before it occurs by considering the following:

  • Understand what your insurance policy does and does not cover, as well as any deductibles you may have to pay when filing a claim.
     
  • Create a detailed inventory of your belongings, including serial numbers, photos, videos and receipts. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (NAIC) free smartphone app – myHOME Scr.APP.book – can facilitate this process. Keep electronic copies of your homeowners, auto and other insurance policies with your home inventory and, if possible, store paper files in a safe, fireproof and waterproof place. Take these documents with you if you must evacuate the premises. These records will contain your policy numbers and the phone numbers of your insurance companies in case you have questions or need to file a claim.
     
  • Keep in mind that homeowners and renters insurance policies issued in Virginia typically do not cover damage resulting from floods, surface water or storm surges. The federal government, however, does sell insurance for direct flood and flood-related damage to homeowners, renters and businesses in eligible communities through its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). There is typically a 30-day waiting period before a flood insurance policy takes effect. To learn more, contact your insurance agent or the NFIP at 1-888-379-9531 or visit fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program.

    The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) will host a #FloodAwareChat on Twitter on March 16 from noon to 1 p.m. The chat will explore flood risk and flood insurance and include a Q&A session. It is one of several activities the DCR is hosting in conjunction with Virginia Flood Awareness Week March 14-20, 2021. To learn more, visit dcr.virginia.gov/floodawarenessweek/.
     
  • Take steps now to reduce the possibility of weather-related damage later. Assess your risk and, if needed, clear your yard and gutters of debris; trim dead or overhanging tree branches surrounding your home; reinforce your roof; install impact-resistant windows or hurricane shutters; install floor vents in foundation walls; raise mechanical and electrical systems inside and out such as furnaces, electrical panels, water heaters and HVAC systems; install a backflow valve in your sewer system; waterproof exterior walls and basements, and direct storm water away from your home.

The Bureau also encourages Virginians to know what to do if their property is damaged during a severe weather event. These steps include contacting your insurance agent or company as soon as possible; making any necessary emergency repairs; taking reasonable steps to prevent further damage to your property, and recording all damage to your property with photographs, notes and repair-related receipts.

The Bureau offers free consumer guides for homeowners and commercial property owners with information about what to do when a disaster strikes. These and many other consumer insurance guides are available on the Bureau’s website at Virginia SCC - Insurance. The Bureau’s specially trained staff can assist consumers with their insurance-related questions and concerns. To learn more, contact the Consumer Services Section of the Bureau’s Property and Casualty Division toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or in Richmond at 804-371-9185.

For additional emergency preparedness information relating to all types of disasters and hazards, visit the Virginia Department of Emergency Management website at vaemergency.gov.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – Powerful smartphones, countless apps, and online finance options have made investing more convenient than ever. With the click of a mouse or press of a button, Virginians can check investment account balances, buy investment products and services and much more while on-the-go. These conveniences have, unfortunately, given scammers new ways to separate investors from their money. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) encourages all Virginians to treat internet security seriously when they invest using online resources.

The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) recently issued an investor awareness advisory to help investors better understand the potential threats to their online financial accounts and how to protect themselves from cybercriminals. The advisory addresses several threats that investors should be aware of, including:

  • Data breaches, including incidents that may expose confidential or protected information, as well as the possible loss or theft of private data that can be used to steal consumers’ identities and assets.
  • Phishing scams, which involve scammers using fraudulent emails, text messages, or phone calls to impersonate legitimate people and entities to trick consumers into giving out personal information.
  • Skimming, which involves the use of technology fraudulently installed into a debit or credit card reader to obtain personal PIN numbers and other account-holder information.
  • Public Wi-Fi scam, which involves the potential loss of personal financial information when using public Wi-Fi networks to shop online or access personal information.

The SCC’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising (Division) offers a full list of resources that investors may use to keep themselves safe online. Before making any investment decisions, ask questions, do your homework and contact the Division at 804-371-9051 in Richmond or toll-free at 1-800-552-7945. For more information, visit the Division’s website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Consumer-Investments or the North American Securities Administrators Association’s website at nasaa.org..

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Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – Few observances align as closely to the Virginia State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) mission as National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), an occasion which aims to help people understand their consumer rights and make smart choices with their finances. NCPW, held from February 28 to March 6 this year, combines the efforts of the Federal Trade Commission and other federal, state, and local agencies and organizations – including the SCC – to promote making well-informed consumer decisions.

The SCC reminds Virginians that it stands ready year-round to answer inquiries, handle complaints, and provide information and assistance regarding industry sectors over which it has regulatory responsibility. Those sectors include insurance companies and agents, state-chartered financial institutions, investment firms and their representatives, retail franchises and investor-owned utilities providing electric, natural gas, water, and sewer, along with non-cellular and non-internet telecommunications services.

The SCC also offers many consumer guides and financial information resources on topics like mortgage loans and deposit account information, purchasing insurance, and more. Its specially trained staff can assist Virginians in making informed choices and, if necessary, submitting a complaint against regulated entities for things like an insurance company improperly denying a claim, a loan transaction or securities offering coming with an errant charge, or a utility company billing incorrectly.

The SCC encourages consumers to shop around and compare prices and terms; thoroughly evaluate any offer; keep written records of all transactions; find products and services that suit your particular needs; review statements and bills regularly; learn to spot scams, and verify that an individual or company is properly licensed or registered.

If a problem arises, the SCC urges consumers to try to resolve it with the regulated individual or company first. Consumers can contact the appropriate SCC division by phone, mail or email (using the online complaint) form if they still are not satisfied. Information about the complaint process along with related forms are available from the Consumers section of the SCC website at scc.virginia.gov. To contact the SCC by phone, call toll-free (in Virginia) at 1-800-552-7945 or in Richmond, call:

  • Bureau of Insurance – 804-371-9741
  • Bureau of Financial Institutions – 804-371-9657
  • Division of Securities and Retail Franchising – 804-371-9051
  • Division of Public Utility Regulation – 804-371-9611
  • Office of the Clerk – 804-371-9733
  • Division of Information Resources – 804-371-9141

In the event the SCC does not have regulatory authority over a particular firm, individual, product or transaction, its staff will assist consumers by referring them to the appropriate local, state or federal authority for assistance. These may include the Attorney General’s Office, local consumer protection office, law enforcement agencies, Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission’s toll-free helpline at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

To learn more about National Consumer Protection Week, visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/.

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Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – Social isolation, loneliness and increased reliance on the internet can potentially create a perfect storm for the financial abuse and fraud victimization of seniors. Social distancing and quarantines intended to protect against the spread of COVID-19 also have increased social isolation for many seniors, making them more vulnerable to financial exploitation.

“Financial abuse can happen anytime, but perpetrators often strike when seniors are most vulnerable, such as during a health or other crisis or after the death of a loved one,” said Ron Thomas, director of the State Corporation Commission’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising (Division). “Increased reliance on the internet by isolated seniors for social interaction, shopping, electronic payments, banking and investing also exposes them to online scammers, who can hide behind a cloak of anonymity.”

Seniors lose billions of dollars annually to financial fraud, with the loss to individual victims averaging tens of thousands of dollars. Perpetrators may be strangers, family members, trusted friends, members of a senior’s social or support groups, financial professionals or others.

Although in-person visits may not be possible due to COVID-19, there are ways to reduce the likelihood of isolation and financial exploitation. Thomas urges Virginians to stay in touch with older family members, friends and neighbors by phone, text, email, video calls or other means. “Remind seniors that scammers follow the headlines and may try to exploit the pandemic. Warn them about the red flags of fraud, which are often the same regardless of the type of scam,” he said.

Warning flags that may indicate financial abuse include the following:

  • Surrendering passwords and control of finances to a new or overly protective friend or caregiver;
  • Fear of or sudden change in feelings toward friends or family members;
  • A lack of knowledge about their financial status or reluctance to discuss financial matters;
  • Sudden or unexplained changes in spending habits, or to their will, trust or beneficiary designations;
  • Unexplained financial activities, such as checks made out to cash, unusual loans or disappearance of assets, valuables or securities;
  • Suspicious signatures on checks or other documents.

Before making any investment decision, Thomas suggests the following:

  • Contact a trusted friend, family member, company or advisor for advice;
  • Make sure an offer and the person offering it are properly licensed or registered, as well as the person’s registration/license status and disciplinary history;
  • Investigate before you invest or provide personal or financial information or money;
  • Avoid “can’t miss” opportunities promising “guaranteed returns” or big returns with little or no risk;
  • Understand the types of scams and tactics scammers use so you can protect yourself against them;
  • Be wary of high-pressure sales tactics that urge you to act quickly and without giving you time to do your research.

Thomas urges Virginians who suspect they or a loved one are the victims of investment fraud or possible senior financial exploitation to contact the Division of Securities and Retail Franchising at 804-371-9051 in Richmond or toll-free at 1-800-552-7945. For more information, visit the Division’s website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Consumer-Investments or the North American Securities Administrators Association’s website at nasaa.org/56731/social-isolation-and-the-risk-of-investment-fraud/ or visit serveourseniors.org/.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – Last year, the State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) helped thousands of consumers recover approximately $14.3 million in refunds, benefits, restitution and other payments related to their insurance coverage. These efforts are only one of the many ways in which the Bureau assists Virginians who have insurance questions or concerns – whether those consumers are shopping for insurance, trying to understand what their insurance policy covers, have questions about premiums, or question why their insurance company did not renew a policy or why it denied a claim.

As part of its recovery efforts, the Bureau receives tens of thousands of inquiries and handles thousands of formal complaints each year. Consumers may contact the Bureau if they have insurance questions or want to file a formal complaint against an insurance company, agency or agent.

During 2020 alone, the Bureau’s Life & Health and Property & Casualty divisions handled more than 14,000 phone inquiries, almost 3,100 formal consumer complaints and 171 appeals of adverse decisions issued by managed care health insurance plans. Among other things, these two divisions handled complaints and appeals concerning claim denials, improper or delayed claims processing, cancellation or nonrenewal of insurance policies and improper billing.

As a result of complaint investigations, managed care appeals and market conduct examinations, the Bureau’s Life & Health and Property & Casualty divisions recovered more than $12.2 million worth of benefits and savings for roughly 7,300 consumers in the form of refunds, insurance benefits, interest payments, reimbursements, additional claims payments and reinstated coverage.

In addition, the Bureau’s Agent Regulation Division conducted 605 investigations and recovered more than $2.1 million in restitution for consumers during 2020 through its Investigation Units. This amount represents refunds and payments provided to policyholders due to improper agent activities.

“Protect yourself financially by reviewing and updating your insurance regularly, understanding the terms of your policy and your rights, and knowing where to turn if you need help,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. “We can look into whether a company has acted in accordance with its policy and the law.”

In addition to recovery efforts for consumers, the Bureau helps Virginians in many other areas concerning their insurance. When shopping for insurance, the Bureau encourages Virginians to compare prices and terms and make sure to select coverage that fits their particular needs. The Bureau’s specially trained staff can assist consumers with their insurance questions and investigate any complaints they may have with their insurance carrier.

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bureau is working hard to help Virginians become well-informed insurance consumers. It offers outreach and educational materials about many types of insurance including health, life, homeowners, auto, long-term care, commercial insurance and Medicare. Consumers may view these materials, search for a licensed insurance company or agent in Virginia, view updates on key laws impacting insurance in Virginia, and much more on the Bureau’s website at www.scc.virginia.gov/pages/Insurance.

For more information, contact the Bureau of Insurance toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or in Richmond at (804) 371-9741 or visit www.scc.virginia.gov.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – Now more than ever, it’s important to have health insurance. The marketplace at HealthCare.gov soon will offer an opportunity to shop for, enroll in or change to a new health insurance plan.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has announced a special enrollment period (SEP) for individuals and families who wish to enroll in health plans under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). The SEP will run for 90 days from February 15 through May 15, 2021. 

During the SEP, consumers may submit a new application for health coverage or update an existing application on HealthCare.gov. Current enrollees will be able to change to any plan offered in their area.

Unlike previous SEPs, there is no restriction requiring enrollees to choose the same level of coverage as their current plan. In addition, consumers will not need to provide any documentation of a qualifying event (such as the loss of a job or birth of a child), which is typically required for SEP eligibility. If an enrollee chooses a new plan, however, it is important to note that deductible and out-of-pocket maximum accumulations are not required to be transferred to the new plan chosen, and that those amounts will start over for the enrollee. Health insurance plans not offered through HealthCare.gov are not required to, but may provide for, eligibility under this same SEP.

Consumers will have 30 days after they submit an application to choose a plan. Coverage will begin the first of the month after plan selection. After May 15, 2021, consumers may only enroll in an ACA-compliant health insurance plan if they recently lost their employer-sponsored health insurance coverage or have had a qualifying life event, such as a household change. To learn more about enrolling after May 15, 2021, visit HealthCare.gov's SEP page.

For free help understanding options when enrolling in coverage through HealthCare.gov, Virginians can find an application assister (navigator and/or certified application counselor) at Coverva.org/assistance/. For help from a licensed agent, visit https://localhelp.healthcare.gov/#/. For additional information, call the Healthcare.gov hotline at 1-800-318-2596. To learn more about the new Virginia Exchange, visit Health Benefit Exchange.

To raise awareness about the SEP and reopening enrollment under the ACA, representatives from Enroll Virginia, the Virginia Health Benefit Exchange, the Virginia Bureau of Insurance and the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Resources will participate in a virtual Town Hall on Tuesday, February 16, at 10:30 a.m. The event will be live streamed on Enroll Virginia’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/enrollva/.

For information about shopping for health insurance on or off the Exchange, contact the Virginia Bureau of Insurance toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or visit its website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Insurance. Use the online comparison tool to compare plans. To verify that an insurance agent, agency or company is licensed in Virginia, visit the Bureau’s website at scc.virginia.gov/boi/ConsumerInquiry/default.aspx.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

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