Though the Affordable Care Act makes it easy for Americans to get health insurance, knowing how to buy after open enrollment has ended is a serious hurdle for most people. Whether they missed the deadline on accident or recently lost coverage, a lot of people don’t know what their health insurance options are.
Fortunately, figuring out how to buy after open enrollment doesn’t take a lot of time. You can find out how to qualify for a special enrollment period, plus everything you need to prepare for the next open enrollment period in just a few minutes.
What You Need to Know About Open Enrollment
Open enrollment for the health insurance marketplace is when all Americans can apply for health insurance coverage. The open enrollment period for coverage beginning on January 1, 2020, was from November 1, 2019, through December 15, 2019.
While the open enrollment period for 2020 health insurance coverage is over, it’s essential to start preparing for the next open enrollment period. This is especially important if you are self-employed or work for an employer that doesn’t offer health insurance.
The open enrollment period for 2021 coverage isn’t available yet, but you can expect it to be around the same time next year – from the beginning of November until mid-December. Here’s what you’ll need to prepare for the next open enrollment period:
- Personal information
- Household information
- Dependent information
- Income and employment information
- Answers to basic health questions
You can apply online and, in most cases, find out if you qualify for premium tax credits immediately. In a few cases, you may need to submit documents to verify some information.
Health Insurance Marketplace: How to Buy After Open Enrollment
If you missed the open enrollment period, there are a few ways you can get health insurance coverage.
1. Apply during a special enrollment period.
Though missing the open enrollment period means you may not qualify for coverage beginning on January 1, 2020, you may be able to apply for health insurance coverage during a special enrollment period. You will have 60 days to get health insurance coverage if you have one of these qualifying life events:
- Get married: You can choose a plan that begins on the first day of the next month.
- Have a baby, adopt a child, or foster a child: Coverage can begin immediately, even if you don’t enroll until the end of the 60-day special enrollment period.
- Get divorced or legally separated and lose health insurance: You can only qualify for the special enrollment period if you lose your coverage.
- Death: If someone on your plan dies, and it results in you losing eligibility for your current plan, you will qualify for a special enrollment period.
- Move: Moving to a new county or zip code, as well as moving to the U.S. from another country, can trigger a special enrollment period. Students, seasonal workers, and people in shelters or transitional housing who move may qualify as well.
If any of these situations apply to you now, you may be able to get coverage immediately. Otherwise, you will qualify for coverage if you have any of these life events happen during the year.
2. Apply for Medicaid or CHIP coverage if you qualify.
Individuals and families who qualify for Medicaid or CHIP coverage can apply for health insurance at any time – there is no open enrollment period or special enrollment period to get coverage. If your state expanded Medicaid, you might qualify for coverage if:
- You are an individual and make less than $17,236 per year.
- You are a family of three and make less than $29,435 per year.
Larger families will have higher income limits to qualify, as well. If you have children and need health insurance for them, you can apply for coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program or CHIP. A family of three can typically qualify for coverage if their income is about $42,000 per year.
3. Consider employment that offers health insurance coverage.
Not everyone will have a qualifying life event that triggers a special enrollment period. There are also a lot of people who are self-employed or who work for employers that aren’t required to offer health insurance. While making a job change is no small decision, health insurance coverage is still required by law, though there is no longer a penalty for not having coverage.
If you have any serious health conditions, being without health insurance really isn’t an option. Employment with a company that offers health insurance can be an affordable way to take care of chronic medical conditions.
Health Insurance Marketplace: Tips for How to Buy After Open Enrollment
Buying health insurance after the open enrollment period doesn’t mean you should rush the decision. If you do qualify for a special enrollment period, you’ll be able to choose from a number of health insurance plans in the marketplace.
It can be a little overwhelming to narrow down your choices, so use these tips to help make the process a little easier:
- Calculate your healthcare costs: Once you apply for coverage, there is a tool in the marketplace portal that enables you to calculate your healthcare costs. This tool can help you choose the plan that will save you the most money.
- Compare multiple insurance plans: The least expensive plan may not be the best plan for you and your family. Compare premiums, deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket limits.
- Look for your healthcare providers: If you already have doctors or specialists, use the built-in feature that allows you to find plans they accept.
You don’t want to choose a plan that has more coverage than you need, so take your time comparing costs and plan limitations.
How an Insurance Agent Can Help You Buy After Open Enrollment
If you aren’t sure whether you qualify for a special enrollment period, or if you already know but also need help choosing the right health insurance plan, you may want to talk with an insurance agent or broker.
An insurance agent or broker can help you apply for health insurance coverage and review your options to pick the best choice for you and your family. Need help choosing a health insurance plan? Contact Fiorella Insurance Agency today to find out how we can help you during your special enrollment period.