June 10, 2021
Issue: Automatic enrollment is receiving increased policy attention as a means of achieving universal coverage. Auto-enrollment also could have eliminated insurance gaps that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it could face resistance from some Americans who would newly be expected to pay premiums. The approach also raises difficult design and implementation issues.Goal: Explore how two auto-enrollment strategies, one affecting all legal residents and another affecting a narrower low-income population, might work.Methods: Based on lessons learned from the Affordable Care Act and understanding of subsidized insurance programs, we explore design and implementation issues, such as how to deem enrollment, how to collect premiums, and which exemptions to permit. We also use the Urban Institute's Health Insurance Policy Simulation Model (HIPSM) to estimate coverage and cost implications of each approach.Key Findings and Conclusions: Both the comprehensive and limited approach to auto-enrollment would require the development of new administrative systems and enhanced marketplace subsidies to improve coverage affordability. Each approach would operate more simply if accompanied by a public insurance option. We conclude that the administrative and financing challenges related to auto-enrollment can be addressed and that a balance between public costs and sufficient political support could be identified.