Pennsylvania’s New Online Health Insurance Marketplace Reopens Enrollment

“Pennie” is the name of Pennsylvania’s new health insurance marketplace, a system that replaces the previously used federal site, The online health insurance exchange is projected to save the state money and to give it more control over its health insurance distribution to help the uninsured.

Pennie is the result of legislation enacted in 2019 that called for the institution of Pennsylvania’s own health insurance platform, to be fully operational by the 2021 plan year. This legislation allows those enrolled in insurance through the Affordable Care Act to enroll through a Pennsylvania-specific site.

According to the executive director of Pennie, ACA members will automatically see their health care information moved from the federal website to Pennie. The online shopping experience does not deviate much from the previous methods used on The new website allows comparison of plans, evaluation of out-of-pocket costs, and determination of tax credit eligibility.

Over 330,000 Pennsylvanians enrolled in private plans through Pennie during the open enrollment period for 2021 coverage, which was about 5,000 more than the year before. Seven insurers statewide will sell Affordable Care Act coverage through the online marketplace, including Highmark and UPMC Health Plan in Western Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania joins the list of 14 other states who are making the switch from federal to state marketplaces.

With the new marketplace, the federal government will no longer get the user fees from Pennsylvania insurance carriers, which totals around $90 million annually. Instead, the state will acquire that money and use it to create a re-insurance program to backstop larger claims. The re-insurance claims are projected to lower premiums and reduce the cost of coverage for people who are not eligible for premium subsidies.

Besides financial savings, states that run their own exchanges also have the advantage of greater flexibility to schedule their enrollment periods. The 2021 Open Enrollment Period for Pennsylvanians began November 1, 2020 and ended January 15, 2021, which was a month longer than it usually lasts. However, Pennie announced in early February that due to COVID-19, it is opening a Special Enrollment Period from February 15 to May 15. This extension will provide the chance for those who are uninsured or who have lost their job-based coverage from the pandemic to apply for health insurance.

Finally, states with their own health insurance sites have much better access to enrollment data. This type of information can be used to better understand enrollment trends which allows policymakers to better service the state’s needs.  The Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network released a statement encouraging Pennsylvanians to apply, stating that 9 out of 10 Pennsylvanians qualify for coverage.

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