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Open Enrollment for health insurance coverage runs from Nov. 1, 2021 through Jan. 15, 2022.

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Area code overlays, specialty numbers expand need for 10-digit dialing across much of Virginia.

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SCC News

SCC Encourages Virginians to Prepare for Shopping for Health Insurance During Open Enrollment

OCT 27, 2021

RICHMOND – Virginia consumers will soon have an opportunity to shop for health care coverage for the 2022 plan year through HealthCare.gov. Virginians can shop for insurance on the website during open enrollment, which runs November 1, 2021 through January 15, 2022.  Special enrollment periods are also available for people who experience certain qualifying life events. Visit healthcare.gov/glossary/special-enrollment-period/ to learn more.

“For 2022 and 2023, Virginia consumers will continue to shop for health care coverage on HealthCare.gov, the federal health insurance platform,” said Victoria Savoy, director of the Virginia Health Benefit Exchange (Virginia Exchange). In the meantime, the Virginia Exchange continues its transition toward becoming operational as a state-based exchange after plan year 2023.

Whether changing health insurance plans or purchasing a new plan, the SCC encourages Virginians to review their coverage needs and thoroughly explore all their options.  Consumers should understand their health coverage options – whether choosing a plan on the federal health insurance platform during open enrollment or another option elsewhere.

“Not all health plans are created alike, and some are not insurance,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. He encourages Virginians to fully understand the coverage, costs and protections before signing up for any health plan. “Understand enrollment periods, what plans must cover to comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and where to turn for legitimate information. If you have questions, the Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) can help.”

Consumer protection laws govern some types of health coverage such as plans purchased through an employer or through the health insurance marketplace. Other types of plans, like health care sharing ministries and discount plans are not insurance and do not offer the same protections as ACA-compliant plans.

Short-term, limited-duration health insurance plans are not available through the health insurance marketplace, but they are regulated health insurance plans. Short-term plans often cover less than ACA-compliant marketplace plans, may deny eligibility for coverage or exclude services because of pre-existing conditions; they also may apply dollar limits on the amount paid in coverage benefits.

Whether shopping for health insurance on or off the exchange, the Bureau and the Virginia Exchange encourage careful consideration of the health care services you and your family will need prior to signing up for any plan. Questions that you should consider include:

  • Does the plan cover the services my family needs or are there limits to the benefits available under the plan?
  • Are doctors and medications my family needs covered by the plan? 
  • What are the monthly premiums and other costs of using health services such as co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles?

During open enrollment, consumers should keep the following in mind:

  • In Virginia, HealthCare.gov is the official website to enroll in ACA plans. (Español: cuidadodesalud.gov/es/).
  • Although you don’t have to use HealthCare.gov to enroll in an ACA plan, you must enroll through HealthCare.gov to receive financial assistance.
  • The open enrollment period for buying a 2022 ACA plan (whether through HealthCare.gov or outside HealthCare.gov) begins November 1, 2021 and ends January 15, 2022.
  • Look for a disclosure indicating whether the health plan complies with the ACA.
  • Do not provide personal information or send money in response to unsolicited calls or emails purporting to offer health care plans or assistance.
  • Members of the health insurance marketplace will not call to sell you health insurance. Be wary of telemarketers cold calling you from the “marketplace,” “national enrollment center," "national healthcare center" or other official-sounding name to sell you health insurance, especially outside the open enrollment period.
  • 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.
  • For free help understanding your options, find an application assistant or a healthcare navigator at coverva.org/en/find-help-in-your-area (Español: coverva.org/es/find-help-in-your-area).

For more information, contact the Bureau 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 learn more about the Virginia Exchange or obtain additional contact information, visit scc.virginia.gov/pages/Health-Benefit-Exchange-(6).

Free translation services are available. Call the Virginia Exchange hotline at 1-833-740-1364 or the Healthcare.gov hotline at 1-800-318-2596 for assistance.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141
 

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Permissive 10-Digit Dialing Begins in November for New 540/826 Overlay Area Code

OCT 25, 2021

RICHMOND – Starting November 13, 2021, permissive 10-digit dialing will begin for Virginians living in the 540 area code region. This is the first step in a June 2020 relief plan approved by the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to phase in the new 826 area code. During the next six months, local calls can be made with either 7 or 10 digits, and all calls that are local will continue to be local even though you dial 10 digits.

The 540 area code encompasses the northwestern and southwestern portions of Virginia; some of the larger cities include Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Culpeper, Fredericksburg, Front Royal, Harrisonburg, Radford, Roanoke, Salem, Staunton, Waynesboro and Winchester.

In the coming months, the inventory of available phone numbers with "540" as the area code is expected to run out. The SCC approved an overlay, which is the addition of another area code (826) to the same geographic region served by an existing area code (540). Beginning June 14, 2022, new telephone lines or services may be assigned numbers using the new 826 area code.

The good news: residents and businesses that already have phone numbers will get to keep them. No one’s 540 phone number will change.

And what do you need to do? Very little. Just start practicing dialing phone numbers using all 10 digits because, beginning May 14, 2022, local calls made in the 540 area code won't be connected if just 7 digits are dialed. You must use 10 digits (3-digit area code + the 7-digit telephone number) as of next May 14. One thing people can do to prepare for the switch is to update their cell phone contacts now, so that phone numbers they call regularly already will have the area code attached.

For more information on this topic, see: scc.virginia.gov/pages/540-Area-Code-Exhaust-Relief.

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Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

Case Number PUR-2019-00148 - Ex Parte: In the matter of the Commission’s investigation into exhaust relief for the 540 area code

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