So, how long does it take to get health insurance? That answer can and will vary from person to person. However, the average person can expect their health insurance approval in two to three weeks after submitting their application and supporting documents.
Despite the efforts made by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to make health insurance more accessible and affordable for all Americans, millions of people are still without coverage. As of 2020, nearly 31.6 million people of all ages were uninsured, according to the latest data from the CDC. That’s about 9.7 percent of the population.
While costs and lack of employer-provided coverage are often cited as the primary reasons why people don’t have health insurance, truth be told, many aren’t sure how to get started and fear that it will take too long to get the coverage they need.
The truth is, it’s not nearly as complicated as it may seem. Plenty of resources can help you get the coverage you need without all of the confusion and headaches, such as your local department of health and human services.
How long does it take to get health insurance? That will depend on when you apply and what kind of health insurance you are applying for. Let’s dive into some of the most common scenarios.
When Is the Best Time to Apply for Health Insurance?
There needs to be more clarity about the best time to apply for health insurance. While it’s generally best to apply for coverage during the annual Open Enrollment Period, which falls between November and December each year, some people believe that you should wait until you need medical care, while others believe that you should apply as soon as you possibly can.
The truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The best time to apply for health insurance depends on your individual circumstances. If you are healthy and don’t expect to need medical care in the near future, you may want to wait to apply for health insurance. On the other hand, if you have a pre-existing medical condition or are expecting a baby, you should apply for health insurance as soon as possible.
Again, the best time to apply for health insurance depends on your individual circumstances. For those who recently lost their insurance or have a qualifying life event (such as a marriage or newly adopted child), you may qualify for a special enrollment period, during which you can enroll in a new plan without waiting for the next open enrollment period. This special enrollment period can last up to 90 days after losing coverage, giving you ample time to shop for a new plan and enroll.
Ideally, it would be best if you never let your insurance lapse. Even if you’re a relatively healthy person with no pre-existing condition, you never know when something might happen. You may end up with expensive medical bills you’re 100% responsible for.
Having adequate health coverage can help you save on medical expenses and help put your mind at ease, knowing that you’re covered in a medical emergency.
What Are the Steps Involved in the Health Insurance Enrollment Process?
The steps involved in health insurance enrollment can vary depending on the situation. For example, if an individual is enrolling in health insurance through their employer, the process may be different than if they are enrolling in a health insurance plan through the government. Here’s what you can expect from each situation.
Enrolling in Employer-Sponsored Coverage
The process is relatively simple for those who have the option to enroll in employer-sponsored health insurance. In most cases, employees can enroll in a health insurance plan through their employer’s website. If you need help enrolling, your human resources department should be able to help you. Enrolling in employer-sponsored health insurance is typically much more straightforward than enrolling in an individual health plan through the marketplace. Here’s what you can expect:
1. Reviewing Your Health Insurance Options with Your HR Representative
Whether you’re a new hire or just deciding to enroll in your employer’s health insurance plan, the first step always takes place with your human resources representative. They will walk you through the enrollment process, review your employer’s benefits, and answer any questions you may have.
2. Fill Out an Enrollment Form
Once all your questions have been addressed, you’ll have to fill out an enrollment form. This can be done through a physical form or your employer’s online system. You will be asked to provide information such as your social security number, household size, and the number of dependents (if any) you care for.
Make sure you fill this form out as accurately as possible to ensure that you receive the best coverage that will meet your medical needs and those of your family.
3. Receive Your Health Insurance Card
After your application is accepted, your health insurance card will arrive in the mail within a few weeks. Generally speaking, your coverage will begin on the first day of the next month. You may receive a temporary card until your actual card arrives.
4. Use Your Health Insurance Coverage
Once your plan is active, you’re typically covered for the full calendar year. You’ll need to provide your insurance card to your medical team and your pharmacy. If you have questions about your plan, contact your employer’s health insurance provider directly or speak with your HR department.
Enrolling in Marketplace Health Insurance
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), often called Obamacare, established the healthcare marketplace. The marketplace allows individuals and families to compare and purchase either family or individual market plans. The Affordable Care Act also expanded Medicaid, a government health insurance program for low-income Americans.
The American Rescue Plan, passed in March 2021, made some changes to the Healthcare Marketplace. The American Rescue Plan provided subsidies for individuals and families to help them purchase lower-cost health insurance plans.
Despite making healthcare more affordable for low-income Americans, millions of people in most states believe that buying an insurance policy through the Marketplace is a time-consuming, complicated process. While it’s true that there are some additional steps that you may not need to complete when applying for an employer-sponsored plan or other coverage directly through an insurance company, the steps for applying for an insurance policy through the Marketplace aren’t nearly as complicated as they may seem.
Here’s what you can expect when applying for the health plans available on the Marketplace:
1. Researching and Comparing Different Health Insurance Plans
Before you buy health insurance through the Marketplace, you need to take your time and research the ACA-compliant plans available in your area. Instead of getting blanket quotes from major medical health insurance companies across the nation, the marketplace helps you narrow down your choices based on your specific area.
Once you have a few options that you are considering, you can compare each plan’s premiums, deductibles, benefits, and other features to determine which one is best for your healthcare needs.
2. Applying for Health Insurance Coverage
When you’re ready to apply for Marketplace health insurance, you’ll be asked to provide some basic information about yourself and your family. This includes your name, address, date of birth, social security number, and employment information. You’ll also need to provide information about your household income and family size. This information determines if you’re eligible for subsidies to help you pay for your plan.
3. Providing Proof of Your Eligibility for Health Insurance Coverage
You may be asked to provide proof of your eligibility for health insurance when you apply for coverage. This usually includes your birth certificate, social security card, and proof of citizenship or legal residency. If you’re applying for coverage through the Marketplace, you may also need to provide your tax return or pay stubs to verify your household income or other documentation of income for those who are self-employed.
4. Paying Your First Premium Payment
Once you’ve applied for Marketplace health insurance and received confirmation that your application has been approved, you’ll need to make your first payment toward your premiums. Paying your first premium payment will ensure that you have coverage for the effective dates that were indicated on your application.
5. Using Your Health Insurance Coverage
Once approved and your first premium payment has been made, you can start using your health insurance coverage as soon as your effective date. If your effective date is November 1st, you can start using your coverage on November 1st.
What Is the Open Enrollment Period?
Open enrollment is a term used to describe the period when you are eligible to buy health insurance. Open enrollment for those with an employment-based policy typically falls between November 1 and December 15, unless you qualify for a special enrollment period.
However, the open enrollment period for those with a Marketplace plan differs. If you want your coverage effective on January 1, you need to enroll in your plan by December 15. However, open enrollment officially ends on January 15.
Can I Apply for Health Insurance outside of Open Enrollment?
This will depend on your state and your unique situation. Usually, you can only buy insurance during the open enrollment period. However, you may be eligible for special enrollment if you’re searching for health plans due to a qualifying event.
Special enrollment periods are granted when you go through at least one of the following qualifying events:
- Change in income
- Loss of previous employer-provided insurance
- Change in jobs
- Change in family size, such as a new child
If your situation falls under a qualifying life event, then you can apply for new coverage and be covered as soon as the following month in most cases. However, if your situation requires additional proof or documentation, you may need to wait until the second following month to be covered.
What Is the Health Insurance Waiting Period, and When Does It Generally Start?
The average waiting period for a new health plan to take effect is between 30 and 90 days. However, this will depend on your insurance provider, your state, and the type of plan you purchase.
When Does Health Insurance Coverage Start at a New Job?
If you have enrolled in an employer-sponsored health plan, you may have to wait patiently for up to 90 days before your coverage goes into effect. However, many employers lean toward the 30-day waiting period to allow their employees to get the most out of their plans.
How Soon Does My Marketplace Insurance Coverage Start?
For those who chose to enroll in a health plan through the Marketplace, your market coverage begins within 30 days after you sign up for the plan, even if you’re applying during a special enrollment period. That way, you can make the most of your health care once you’ve made your first payment on your premiums.
Can I Apply for Immediate Healthcare Coverage?
In most states, there are certain situations where you may qualify for immediate healthcare coverage. For instance, many states have free clinics and community health centers that can offer immediate care to uninsured or underinsured people. In some cases, states may provide free coverage for things like women’s health, which gives access to immediate healthcare coverage with proof of state/program coverage.
In other areas, some programs allow families to enroll in special care for children all year round, with coverage beginning as soon as they are approved. However, these programs have special requirements to be met to apply for and maintain coverage.
Does Short-Term Health Insurance Provide Immediate Coverage?
Depending on where you live and which insurance company you choose, you may be able to get instant access to health insurance through a short-term health insurance plan.
Short-term plans are a type of policy that can last anywhere from one month to up to 12 months. In some cases, you may be able to renew your policy for up to 36 months. These plans are typically much cheaper than traditional health insurance but also have some significant drawbacks. For instance, these plans usually don’t cover pre-existing conditions and often have much higher deductibles.
However, if you’re a relatively healthy individual, a short-term plan could get you covered as soon as the day of approval.
Get the Coverage You Need
Health insurance is vital to getting the care you need and deserve. Understanding how long it will take to get health insurance and how to get covered is essential. Whether you’re looking for an individual or family health insurance plan, there are a few things you need to know, and the team at Fiorella Insurance Agency can help you get started.
Contact Fiorella Insurance Agency today for your free health insurance quote.