Delawareans Will Have New Opportunity to Gain Health Insurance Through HealthCare.Gov from Feb. 15 to May 15

NEW CASTLE (Feb. 9, 2021) –Delawareans looking for affordable health insurance will have an additional opportunity to sign up for coverage – including tax credits for eligible enrollees that help to reduce monthly premiums significantly – from Feb. 15 to May 15 on HealthCare.gov, the federal online Health Insurance Marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

In light of the exceptional challenges and uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, President Joe Biden signed an executive order Jan. 28 that created a three-month special enrollment period (SEP) to give Americans greater access to health insurance, including those who lost their job or their coverage as part of the fallout from the pandemic.

“Access to affordable health care remains a critical need for all Delawareans as we continue to fight the spread of the coronavirus. I am grateful to President Biden for giving state residents this additional opportunity to get the coverage they need,” said Delaware Gov. John Carney. “I encourage everyone to spread the word about the benefits of enrolling in coverage through HealthCare.gov during this three-month sign-up period.”

“This special enrollment period provides a great opportunity for Delawareans who are looking for high-quality, affordable health insurance, especially those impacted by the pandemic,” said DHSS Secretary Molly Magarik. “Despite the success of the Health Insurance Marketplace since it opened eight years ago, many state residents still lack insurance, and some might remain unaware that they can access comprehensive care – and, in many cases, get financial help to afford it – through HealthCare.gov.”

The marketplace’s annual open enrollment period for 2021 coverage ended Dec. 15, and since then individuals could get coverage only if they experienced a life event that qualified them to apply for a special enrollment period. The new three-month enrollment period is open to all eligible applicants who want to apply for coverage or change their existing coverage for any reason; applicants won’t be required to provide documentation of a qualifying event (e.g., loss of a job or birth of a child).

Individuals currently covered under a marketplace plan will be able to change to any plan available in Delaware without being restricted to the same level of coverage as their current plan. Current enrollees will need to go through their existing application and make any necessary changes then submit their application in order to receive an updated eligibility result.

Eligible individuals who enroll under the special enrollment period will have 30 days after they submit their application to choose a plan. Note that even after the special enrollment period ends May 15, individuals who experience qualifying life-changing events will be eligible to enroll for marketplace coverage. (It is also worth noting that proof of insurance is not required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, once your group becomes eligible.)

Delaware is one of 36 states that use HealthCare.gov for eligible residents to sign up for coverage. More than 25,000 Delawareans signed up for 2021 coverage during the recent open enrollment period.

The special enrollment period is available to all marketplace-eligible individuals who are submitting a new application or updating an existing application. You can enroll in marketplace coverage at www.HealthCare.gov or www.CuidadodeSalud.gov or by calling 1 (800) 318-2596 (TTY: 1 855 889-4325).

Applicants will need to provide the following when applying for coverage:

  • Full names, Social Security numbers, and birth dates of all those applying for coverage
  • Legal documents for all eligible immigrants who are applying for coverage (i.e. Visa, Green Card, etc.)
  • Paystubs, W-2 forms, or other information about your family’s income
  • Information about any health coverage from a job that’s available to you or your family
    For more information, go to www.ChooseHealthDE.com.

About 6.6 percent of Delawareans remain uninsured, according to the 2020 America’s Health Rankings. That’s down significantly from the nearly 10 percent who lacked insurance in 2010 before the ACA and the Health Insurance Marketplace existed.

“For nearly a year, we have hoped that the Health Insurance Marketplace would allow for greater enrollment opportunities in response to the pandemic and economic conditions. President Biden has made it happen,” said Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro. “This Special Enrollment Period will help ensure Delaware residents have access to comprehensive health insurance that protects pre-existing conditions. And, because we’ve reduced rates by more than 19% over the past two years, these plans are more affordable for residents.”

Support from Congressional delegation

Delaware’s U.S. senators and representative urged uninsured or underinsured Delawareans, especially those who may have lost their jobs because of the pandemic, to find out what’s available for them on the marketplace during the three-month enrollment period.

“President Biden understands that it is critical for Americans to be able to access the care and coverage they need during an unprecedented pandemic. That’s why he’s beginning a new open enrollment period so that Delawareans, and families across this country, have another chance to enroll in a health insurance plan and get covered this year,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, who helped pen the Affordable Care Act that created the marketplaces. “Don’t leave your family’s well-being to chance. Enroll in an affordable, high-quality health insurance plan today that meets your needs and your budget.”

“I commend the Biden administration for reopening the federal online Health Insurance Marketplace, which will allow Delawareans, particularly those impacted by COVID-19, another opportunity to sign up for the health insurance coverage that best meets their needs,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Coons. “Ensuring that Delawareans have access to quality, affordable health care is critical, even more so during a pandemic. I urge all Delawareans who need health coverage to assess their options during this three-month special enrollment period.”

“As we continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic, and Americans are in need of affordable and accessible care, it is crucial that comprehensive health coverage is available to all those that need it,” said U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester. “A special enrollment period is critical for allowing Delawareans in need of health insurance to sign up. I’m grateful to President Biden for reopening the Health Insurance Marketplace and ensuring that everyone who needs coverage has access.”

What’s covered

All plans on the marketplace offer essential health benefits such as coverage of pre-existing medical conditions, outpatient care (including telehealth services), emergency services, hospitalization, prescription drugs, mental health and substance use disorder services, lab services, and pediatric services.

Marketplace plans can’t terminate coverage due to a change in health status, including diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19. The rules in marketplace plans for treatment of COVID-19 are the same as for any other viral infection; enrollees are encouraged to check their particular plan for complete information about benefits.

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Delaware is the sole health insurer offering plans on Delaware’s Health Insurance Marketplace for 2021. Highmark offers 12 plans for individuals and families. Two dental insurers – Delta Dental of Delaware, Inc. and Dominion Dental Services, Inc. – offer a collective 11 stand-alone dental plans on the marketplace.

Affordability

About 86 percent of marketplace enrollees in Delaware in 2020 were eligible for federal tax credits, which help reduce the cost of the monthly premium.

Tax credits are available for those whose household income is between 138 percent and 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. For 2021 coverage, that’s between $17,609 and $51,040 for an individual, or between $36,156 and $104,800 for a family of four.

According to the most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the overall average monthly premium in Delaware in 2020 was $668, with the average premium reduced to $192 per month after tax credit. For the 86 percent of Delawareans who received financial assistance, the average premium after tax credit was $110 per month.

Plans on the marketplace are spread among metal-level categories – bronze, silver, gold and platinum – and are based on how enrollees choose to split the costs of care with their insurance company. Bronze plans have low monthly premiums but high costs when you need care; gold plans have high premiums but lower costs when you need care. In a silver plan, the insurer pays about 70 percent of medical costs and the consumer pays about 30 percent. For any marketplace plan in 2021, individual consumers can’t pay more than $8,550 in out-of-pocket medical costs and families can’t pay more than $17,100.

“Catastrophic” plans are also available to some people. Catastrophic plans have low monthly premiums and very high deductibles. They may be an affordable way to protect yourself from worst-case scenarios, like getting seriously sick or injured. But you pay most routine medical expenses yourself.

Consumers who pick silver health care plans might also qualify for additional savings through discounts on deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. In Delaware, about 29 percent of current enrollees qualify for cost-sharing reductions.

Where to find help

Delawareans who want help enrolling in coverage will have access to free assistance from trained specialists at Westside Family Healthcare. Virtual and phone appointments are encouraged; in-person appointments are limited and must be made in advance. Because of the pandemic, walk-ins are not permitted. Assistance is available in any language and for all Delaware residents. Call 302-472-8655 in New Castle County, 302-678-2205 in Kent/Sussex counties or email enrollment@westsidehealth.org.

State-licensed insurance agents and brokers are also available to help individuals re-enroll and to help employers update their coverage, at no extra charge. See a list at ChooseHealthDE.com.

Medicaid

President Biden’s executive order also called for states to reexamine policies, such as work requirements, that restrict access to coverage through Medicaid, which pays medical bills for eligible low-income families and others whose income is insufficient to meet the cost of necessary medical services. This part of the president’s order does not affect Delaware, which under the ACA expanded access to Medicaid starting in 2014. More than 10,000 Delawareans have received coverage under the state’s Medicaid expansion. To be screened for eligibility or to apply for Medicaid benefits year-round, go to Delaware ASSIST.


Division of Public Health Awarded $67 Million Grant

Grant to be Used to Implement Expanded Testing and Data Capacity for COVID-19

DOVER (May. 21, 2020) – The Division of Public Health (DPH) is announcing it was awarded a $67 million Epidemiology Laboratory Capacity (ELC) grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to implement expanded testing capacity for COVID-19, and support the establishment of a modernized public health epidemiologic surveillance system.

DPH typically receives $1.5 million in ELC grant funds annually but due to the need to support COVID-19 activities, all states received a greatly enhanced amount, and a timeframe of 30 months to implement funding.

The funding will be used for hiring staff for enhanced laboratory, surveillance, informatics, and other workforce capacity, strengthening laboratory testing, implement​ing new and advanced technologies for electronic data exchange at the public health lab and improving our surveillance and reporting of electronic health data.

“Widespread community testing for COVID-19 and contact tracing are keys to reopening Delaware’s economy safely while protecting our most vulnerable neighbors. These additional federal resources will be a real help in that effort,” said Governor Carney. “Delawareans should stay vigilant. Keep your distance from others. Wear a face covering in public settings, including on the boardwalk. Wash or sanitize your hands frequently. We need to get this right and personal behavior matters. Now’s not the time to let up.”

“The enhanced funding from the CDC will allow us to expand community testing in Delaware and to rapidly build our contact tracing program, especially among vulnerable populations,” said Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker, a practicing family physician. “As we test more widely, we will find more positive cases in our state and those individuals will need to be isolated. To slow the transmission of this highly contagious disease – one person infected with the virus can infect two to three more people – we need to move quickly to alert people who may have been exposed to someone who tested positive, and to advise them of their need to self-quarantine.”

“We are so grateful for the support from CDC and excited about how this funding will expand and support in particular, enhancing our data and surveillance systems,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, Director of the Division of Public Health. “We had begun working to enhance our platforms that support our data and surveillance systems when COVID-19 hit, and as we have navigated this event, we were building systems on the fly. This will greatly accelerate our efforts to be where we want to be in our data analysis and use.”

In addition to supporting expanded statewide testing and analysis, the grant will assist Delaware in creating a COVID-19 surveillance network to test symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals, with additional testing for vulnerable populations.

DPH plans to use the funding to:

  • Hire staff for enhanced laboratory, surveillance, informatics, and other workforce capacity​.
  • Purchase testing and laboratory supplies such as specimen collection kits, lab reagents, and test kits for molecular and serology testing.
  • Implement new and advanced technologies for robust implementation of electronic laboratory and surveillance data exchange to and from the public health lab. This includes the purchase of hardware, software and systems like GIS mapping tools.
  • Implement new and advanced technologies to improve our surveillance and reporting of electronic health data.
  • Use laboratory data to enhance investigation, response, and prevention through contact tracing, surveillance/mapping, outbreak response, community testing events, and public dissemination of data. DPH and other states who have received this funding must accelerate efforts to conduct robust contact tracing and then identify and isolate new cases of COVID-19.
  • Coordinate and engage with partners through training, outreach, workshops, communication technologies, and community testing events​.

“We know that the key to safely reopening our economy is expanded testing capabilities. That has been the focus of our congressional delegation and Governor Carney, and I’m glad that the First State is receiving this significant federal grant,” said U.S. Senator Tom Carper. “This funding, made possible by the CARES Act that Congress passed in March, will help Delaware track and trace this virus so we can keep moving in the right direction to get through this pandemic.”

“This critical grant from the CDC will help expand our state’s capacity to address the COVID-19 pandemic with more staff support, better testing capabilities, and new technologies,” said U.S. Senator Chris Coons, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “As an appropriator, I will continue to voice the needs of our state’s and other states’ public health departments to ensure the federal government delivers the resources health officials need during this crisis.”

“Since the beginning of this pandemic, one of my top priorities has been expanding testing capacity both at a state and federal level. This grant from the CDC will help Delaware expand our capacity and consequently be better able to track and trace the virus,” said U.S. Representative Lisa Blunt-Rochester, a member of the House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee. “We know that testing and tracing is the best way to stop the spread of the virus so that we can safely and more confidently reopen our economy. I want to thank the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services and the Division of Public Health for their continued efforts in the fight against COVID-19.”

Anyone with a question about COVID-19, should call Delaware 2-1-1, or email delaware211@uwde.org. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing can text their ZIP code to 898-211. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Medical-related questions related to testing, symptoms, and health-related guidance can also be submitted by email at DPHCall@delaware.gov.

People who have complaints about out-of-state individuals violating the Governor’s State of Emergency Order, or violating the public gathering restrictions, should contact state or local law enforcement. Questions or complaints about business operations should be directed to: Business@delaware.gov. Questions regarding unemployment claims should be emailed to: UIClaims@delaware.gov.

In addition, the Division of Public Health asks any Delaware health care, long-term care, residential, or other high-risk facility with questions or concerns to email: DPH_PAC@delaware.gov or call the DPH Call Center at 1-866-408-1899 and press ext. 2.

DPH will continue to update the public as more information becomes available. For the latest on Delaware’s response, go to de.gov/coronavirus.


DNREC, federal, local and conservation partners gather to celebrate completion of Mispillion Harbor restoration

MISPILLION HARBOR – Against a backdrop of migrating shorebirds and spawning horseshoe crabs on the beach at Mispillion Harbor, DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin was joined by U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester to celebrate the completion of the Mispillion Harbor restoration. The three-year project restored the area in the wake of damage inflicted by a series of coastal storms including 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, and built resiliency against future storms impacting this vitally important habitat. Also joining the Secretary and the Congressional Delegation were U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber, and National Fish & Wildlife Foundation Vice President of Conservation Programs Eric Schwaab.

Who is in the Photo?
Located east of Milford within the Milford Neck Wildlife Area, Mispillion Harbor is globally significant for the high numbers of migrating shorebirds that stop there each spring to refuel by feeding on the eggs of spawning horseshoe crabs, with both species favoring the harbor’s sheltered sandy beaches and calm waters than other less-sheltered sites along Delaware’s Bayshore. Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) led the task of restoring balance to this critical habitat, as well as planning the restoration of the surrounding Milford Neck tidal marsh, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), The Nature Conservancy, and Delaware Wild Lands, with support from other conservation partners and local community members.

Federal funds totaling $5.8 million through USFWS and NFWF were paired with $2 million in state matching funds to complete restoration of Mispillion Harbor and to create a longer-term plan for restoring the integrity of Milford Neck’s marshlands and forest habitat.

“I want to commend everyone involved – the Congressional Delegation, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, and all of our other conservation partners – for their support in bringing this important project to completion,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “Through this partnership, we have restored one of the Delaware Bayshore’s most extraordinary places. Mispillion Harbor can now continue to provide safe haven to migrating shorebirds, including the threatened red knot, and to the spawning horseshoe crabs whose eggs fuel their long journey, as well as drawing visitors from around the world to observe the vital interaction of these species.”

“The funding that the congressional delegation worked hard to acquire for Delaware projects after Hurricane Sandy not only saved this area, but saved a part of Delaware’s tourism economy,” said Senator Tom Carper, ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee in the U.S. Senate. “That money was put to good use. We didn’t just fix the damage, we created a long-term plan to mitigate damage from future storms. Some people say we can’t have a strong economy and healthy environment at the same time, but I believe this project is a great example of how we cannot have one without the other.”

“Delaware’s wetlands and coastal habitats are not only beautiful, they’re also unique parts of our ecosystem and critical to our economy,” said Senator Chris Coons. “In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, these wetlands were truly at risk, and I’m so proud of everyone at the state, federal, and local level who came together to protect the Mispillion Harbor Reserve, the Milford Neck conservation area, and all the creatures who call these places home.”
“This vital conservation project is a great example of steps we can take to restore ecological balance along our coast. With the completion of the Mispillion Harbor Restoration, horseshoe crabs now have a new beach to spawn their young, red knots have a place to refuel on their journey north, and Delaware is revitalizing its pristine coastline,” said Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester. “It’s only through the continued efforts of local, state, and federal collaborators that we can both save endangered species and preserve the First State’s beauty for all to enjoy.”

In Mispillion Harbor, habitat restoration work began in 2016 and was completed this spring, including:

  • The existing rock structure – originally constructed in the 1980s to protect the harbor – was raised by an average of 3.5 feet to a height of 6 feet over a distance of 2,300 linear feet, and was extended westward by an additional 400 feet, tying into the existing dune. To increase stability, the base of the structure also was broadened by 18 feet.
  • Sandy beach areas were expanded by adding 40,000 cubic yards of sand along the inside of the rock structure between the north groin and south groin, and on the south side of the south groin.
  • Five new groins ranging from 80-150 feet were constructed perpendicular to the rock structure to hold the sand in place.
  • Swains Beach was restored by adding 500 cubic yards of sand, after removing materials used as riprap by a previous owner, including: concrete waste, two truckloads of old tires, two truckloads of metal debris and other waste. Also, volunteers planted 5,000 beach grass plugs to help hold the sand in place.

For the Milford Neck conservation area, hydrodynamic modeling, restoration alternatives, and a restoration plan were collaboratively developed by DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy and Delaware Wild Lands, who collectively own 10,000 acres of Milford Neck, including the state-owned Milford Neck Wildlife Area.

“The success of this collaborative restoration effort has played out this spring on the shoreline of Mispillion Harbor, with horseshoe crabs spawning on the beaches and shorebirds eating their fill of eggs,” said Regional Director Weber, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This project truly exemplifies the power of partnerships. When we combine our investments, energy, and innovation to restore Mispillion Harbor and build a stronger Atlantic Coast, we can accomplish far more for wildlife and people than any single agency or organization can accomplish alone.”

In addition to supporting the recovery of the federally-listed threatened red knot by helping provide a stable food source for shorebirds in a protected area, and offering a safe haven for spawning horseshoe crabs, the work at Mispillion Harbor, Milford Neck, and associated navigable waterways also benefits local residents and visitors.

Restoration work to protect Mispillion Harbor and to maintain tidal flow through coastal marshes, supports local communities and enhances recreational and commercial boating and fishing access, as well as other outdoor opportunities in the area, including:

  • Public boat ramps at Cedar Creek a half-mile upstream from the harbor and on the Mispillion River in Milford 10 miles upstream;
  • The DuPont Nature Center, which overlooks the harbor with its deck offering a sweeping view of the spring spectacle of shorebirds and horseshoe crabs, is owned and operated by DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife, and attracts thousands of local, regional, national, and international visitors each year;
  • Local businesses near the harbor – Cedar Creek Marina, a commercial marina and dry-dock facility, and Delaware Bay Launch Services, which operates a fleet of boats servicing ship and barge traffic on the Delaware Bay and River headed to ports in Philadelphia, Trenton, Camden, and Wilmington; and
  • Farmlands and residential areas, notably the nearby Town of Slaughter Beach, which has more than 350 homes, a volunteer fire company, and public recreation facilities including beach access, a picnic pavilion, public restrooms, and interpretive signs. The town serves the region by supporting school and nature center programs, fishing, wildlife viewing, kayaking, and other recreational uses of the beach and bay.

Restoration work planned for Milford Neck will expand on the benefits from the Mispillion Harbor restoration, further facilitating movement of storm and spring tide waters throughout the tidal marsh system woven into the area of Slaughter Beach, Milford Neck, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, and other state and conservation partner-owned properties as well as residential and agricultural areas.

Media Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902