Last week, as part of a package of special health-related measures aimed at addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Jared Polis announced that the state was adding an “emergency special enrollment period” for the individual marketplace.

The move means that anyone who is uninsured can still purchase coverage outside of the usual enrollment period, which ended in January.

Special enrollment opened on Friday and continues until April 3. The aim, according to a Connect for Health Colorado news release, is to help as many people as possible “protect their health and safety during the COVID-19 outbreak” by increasing access to health insurance coverage.

Coverage will begin April 1, even for those who register April 1-3.

Individuals will qualify if they currently don’t have health insurance, have recently lost their health insurance or are about to lose their health insurance.

(Separate from the new measure, Coloradans who have life-changing events, including those who have lost or are about to lose their job, and thus lose their employer-based health insurance, have a 60-day window to enroll in individual coverage, whenever that might happen throughout the year.)

Tri-County Health Network navigators are available to enroll individuals by phone or email Monday through Friday from 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. Individuals can also schedule a virtual appointment with a navigator outside of regular office hours.

Telluride insurance broker Brett Borup likewise can assist anyone needing help with enrollments.

Individuals can also use Connect for Health Colorado online or by phone. Those using the online option need to select the enrollment reason, “Will lose or lost health insurance and/or have no other health coverage during the Covid-19 outbreak” and enter the date they are applying as the “qualifying life-change event date.” By doing this, the applicant will not be asked by the health insurance company to provide documentation to verify eligibility.

The Connect for Health Colorado customer service center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with extended weekend hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., both Saturday and Sunday.

Tri-County Health Network Executive Director Lynn Borup advised people who may be losing Medicaid coverage to reach out to a TCHNetwork navigator or local broker to explore coverage through the marketplace.

“Many individuals may qualify for financial assistance, making premiums more affordable,” she said.

Borup added that, “unfortunately eligibility requirements have not changed, meaning recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status and undocumented immigrants remain excluded from purchasing individual health insurance plans through the marketplace.”

In addition, state insurance officials cautioned that only people who are currently uninsured are eligible to enroll; this is not a period for people with coverage to change plans. Uninsured spouses and children will also be allowed to enroll at this time, even if one spouse or a child’s parent is already insured.

Like Borup, Michael Conway, the state insurance commissioner, urged uninsured individuals to at least explore their options during the special enrollment period.

“Many people are unaware that they are eligible for financial assistance to help lower their premiums,” Conway said in a news release. “We encourage everyone who is uninsured to use this opportunity to visit Connect for Health Colorado, check what assistance they may be eligible for and enroll in coverage.”

Said Polis, in a separate announcement, “As a state, we are looking at all possible solutions to ensure we are protecting the health and safety of Coloradoans and minimizing the duration of the crisis. This is a coordinated effort with all state agencies and community partners to utilize every resource available during this difficult time to reduce the severity and duration of the crisis. Together, we will get through this.”

TCHNetwork navigator for San Miguel County is Justin Fleischer, who can be reached at om@tchnetwork.org or 970-708-7096. Ouray’s navigator is Carol Schutter,who can be reached at navigator1@tchnetwork.org or 970-708-7967. The West End navigator is Skitter Jones, who can be reached at oc-westend@tchnetwork.org or 970-239-1806. Clientes de TCHNetwork que hablen español pueden contactar a Marisa Marshalka, hec@tchnewtork.org o 970-729-8092.

Brett Borup can be reached at brettborup@gmail.com or 970-708-7896.

Connect for Health Colorado’s Customer Service Center can be contacted at 855-752-6749 or connectforhealthco.com.