The ObamaCare Open Enrollment 2016 runs from November 1, 2015 through January 31, 2016. Open enrollment for the health insurance marketplace happens each year, and moving forward, the period will run from October through December of the same year. It is the specific time of year when you can apply for minimal essential coverage, enroll in a plan, switch plans, apply for cost assistance, etc. in the individual and family market without qualifying for special enrollment.
Think of the open enrollment period as a window for you and your family to sign up for insurance. Outside this window, you cannot purchase a plan without having a valid excuse and qualifying for special enrollment period. Now, everyone needs to have at least minimum coverage for an entire year or else pay a monthly fee. Now the marketplace is where you can get subsidized insurance and minimum coverage.
So how can you take advantage of the open enrollment period?
1. Check Your Mail.
You should get letters from your insurer and the marketplace regarding the open enrollment and other important facts of your coverage. See if your insurer wants to keep your existing policy or make changes in the coming year. Even if your current plan worked for you in the past, it does not mean it is the only best option for you out there going forward. Check your options.
2. Check The Marketplace.
Open enrollment for 2016 starts on November first, but it is best to check the marketplace as early as today. Log into your account or if you do not have one yet, register right away. You can make an account at the federal marketplace or state exchange. Checking your account keeps you in tabs of news regarding your plan.
3. Update Your Profile.
Your healthcare account is more important than your social media account, so make sure your profile details are up to date. Disclose current values for your income to maximize subsidies. Indicate major life changes such as your civil status and number of dependents as these items can affect your tax credits and ultimately the cost of your policy.
4. Understand Tax Credits.
The costs and factors affecting your tax credits may confuse you a little bit. By logging to your account, you can have your tax credit estimated after keying in specific details about your social and financial status. Also, some healthcare sites offer a plan estimation tool to help you.
5. Do Not Rely On Auto-Enrollment.
If you like the policy you had a year ago, well and good. If you like it that much and do not do something about it, you usually and automatically get re-enrolled in the same plan for the following year. But do not be lazy. A brief research at the marketplace could mean a yearlong savings. Go the marketplace and make inquiries for the best prices and providers. Also, some providers might change plans, and if you do not initiate changes to your current plan, your provider would automatically enroll you to the new plan they think most resembles your old plan.
6. Ask For Help.
The marketplace and state exchange offer hotlines, emails and other support services to shed light to your questions. You can also approach a health care navigator in your area to help you with selecting a plan, changing policy and other such decisions. Government-run shopping sites offer much of the help you need especially if you qualify for subsidy, but you can also look up private healthcare sites for more options and help.
7. Keep Tabs Of The Schedule.
So far, here are the important dates published at the ObamaCare sites. November 1, 2015 is the first day of open enrollment for 2016 and January 31, 2016 is the last day. On October 1, 2016, the open enrollment for 201y begins and this supposedly ends on December 15, 2016. Starting January 1, moving forward, all new policies bought or renewed before December 15 the previous year begin.
8. Know The Consequences Of Inaction And Neglect.
Millions of Americans still do not have insurance, and those who do not qualify for an exemption have to pay hefty penalties. Yes, not having health insurance costs you money, more money than you need to pay for getting one. In 2014, the penalty for going without coverage was at about 1% of household income. The penalty doubled in 2015, to 2%, and is set to increase again in 2016.
What Are The Grounds For Exemption?
The three-month window may seem too long a time, but do not be complacent. The open enrollment period has a hard deadline, and if you cannot make the cut, you will have to suffer the consequences of not buying a plan unless you qualify for an exemption.
Now the grounds for exemption include several qualifying events in your life such as going through divorce, getting married, moving to a new location, losing your health coverage and having a baby. If any of these qualifying events happen to you, then you can apply for health insurance up to 60 days after the event happened.
Now, some private health insurance providers may sell plans outside the open enrollment period. But many of them have adopted the same model after the Affordable Care Act was passed. Do not be surprised if insurers refuse to sell you a plan outside the open enrollment period because they are merely avoiding the per month penalty for not having insurance. And if you happen to buy outside the open enrollment, you usually pay more than you should. So all in all, it is economically wiser to purchase a plan during the open enrollment period after studying all of your options.