Regardless of where you stand on the current health care issue, I think we can all agree that everyone should have access to affordable health care. It’s also very important that everyone is educated about this new health plan and the options available to all families and individuals.
I remember a time when I did not have health insurance and though I could have received assistance, I opted to go without. Unfortunately, I had medical issues that went ignored and should have been dealt with. There was also a time when my husband and I were both self employed and again, we went many years with no health care, as it was much too expensive. Families no longer need to go without with the many options available to them today.
To have access to affordable health care and ignore the approaching deadlines would be senseless. If a single mother is uninsured and she and her children can receive insurance coverage for a small fee each month, she should do everything in her power to get covered asap!
If unfamiliarity or complexity keeps healthy, younger enrollees away from the exchanges and they opt to pay the relatively low first-year fine, that would be a worst-case scenario, says Jay Starkman, chief executive of Engage PEO in Fort Lauderdale, which handles administrative duties like health insurance enrollment for small businesses. “The purpose of this law is to get health insurance for people who don’t have it now. If people say they don’t want to deal with it, or they haven’t gotten enough good information about it, that will leave enrollment to the unhealthier and older people, which will drive rates up even more,” Starkman says.
Three Reasons You Should Sign Up Healthcare Before March 31: With Open Enrollment ending in March, it’s important to learn how these facts could affect you.
After March 31, you can’t get covered by health insurance until next year!
Unlike previous years, the majority of consumers will only be able to purchase private health insurance during the annual Open Enrollment Period. Except for specific, special circumstances, you can only buy coverage for this year until March 31, whether you’re shopping through your state’s Health Insurance Marketplace or outside it. This is a big change from the past.
You are still free to change your health plan every year if you want to, but you have to wait. Open enrollment for next year will commence on Nov. 15, 2014 and run through Jan. 15, 2015. But coverage purchased during this period will only kick in January 1, 2015 at the earliest. Simply put, if you don’t enroll by March 31, 2014, you won’t be covered by insurance until at least January 1, 2015.
What constitutes a “qualifying life event” to change your coverage outside of Open Enrollment? Consumers will be given 60 days to make a change if they are:
• Having a baby or a change in their marital status.
• Losing their existing plan, for instance by leaving a job.
• Having a change in income that makes them newly eligible or newly ineligible for tax credits to lower the cost of your premiums
• Moving to another state.
• Having an increase in income that makes them or a family member ineligible for Medicaid or CHIP.
• Becoming “lawfully present” in the United States by getting a green card or other long-term non-tourist visa.
What doesn’t qualify? Getting sick and suddenly needing urgent health care. That’s why it’s so important to get covered now.
You may be passing up free money for your health insurance.
More than three-quarters of the people who have purchased a plan through their Health Insurance Marketplace will be receiving financial assistance in paying their premiums, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. It’s quite possible that you could be one of them.
Depending on your family size and income, you may be able to lower your monthly premium through a tax credit called the “Advance Premium Tax Credit.” For example, a family of 4 with an income up to approximately $94,000 would qualify for help. Without checking,you could be passing up this money to help pay for insurance. For a quick, easy way to see if you could qualify visit Consumer Reports’ HealthLawHelper.org.
Note: if your income is low enough, you or your children may be eligible for government-funded Medicaid and CHIP programs for lower-income Americans. These programs are exempt from open enrollment and you can sign up at any time.
Waiting until the last minute may leave you scrambling
Enrollment in new insurance plans has dramatically increased since the initial website hiccups but there are still millions of consumers that need to review their options and you don’t want to get caught up in the last minute shopping frenzy.
Plus, if you care about getting coverage started before May 1st you’ll need to take action sooner. Insurance plans purchased after March 15 may leave you waiting until May 1 for that coverage to kick in. The delay results from the two weeks needed to process applications and insurance plans tend to start on the 1st day of the month.
NOTE: Consumer Reports has a range of independent and unbiased health insurance experts who are available to advise and answer questions on Health Care plans 7-days a week.
Below you will find the Health Law Helper tool to help you learn more about health care laws and the options available to you!
HealthLawHelper is an informational tool designed for individual consumers. It incorporates the best information Consumer Reports has about the federal healthcare law’s impact on consumers. Though enrollment has picked up, millions of Americans are still not aware of their options under the new law. The HealthLawHelper bridges this knowledge gap and helps connect consumers with their new options or puts their mind to ease about how the law actually may or may not affect them.
The tool works for any scenario and it gives you options. In many cases, the tool will direct the user to their state marketplace for new coverage options. But for example, if you already have Medicare coverage or coverage through an employer, the tool helps you understand how your current situation fits in to law.
I am participating in a paid outreach program for Consumer Reports.