Unlike most other products on the market, health insurance is not something that you can buy at will any time of the year. Each year there is an open enrollment period in which anyone may purchase or change plans, with the current cutoff being December 15, 2017. While that may frustrate some, there is still an opportunity to jump onto a new plan assuming that you qualify for the special enrollment period which we’ll discuss in the next few paragraphs. Most importantly, if your premium is paid, then all insurance purchased at the end of the 2017 enrollment period will go into effect January 1, 2018.
Understanding the Special Enrollment Period
The special enrollment period is a time outside of the Open Enrollment period in which some individuals may still be permitted to sign up for coverage. Some of the necessary circumstances for participating in the SEP include the following:
- Loss of Health Coverage
If you obtain a new job that offers health insurance, your plan is required to have a special enrollment period of at least thirty days to ensure that you aren’t left out in the cold until the next year simply because you switched jobs. For a full list of SEP qualifications, check the ACA website or speak to your new employer.
You can check to see if you qualify for special enrollment, however, if you already know that you qualify you can feel free to start an application immediately. Once you apply, you can answer a few questions on the ACA website to determine what type of coverage you qualify for and most importantly, how much you can expect to pay.
Children’s Health Insurance Program(CHIP)/Medicaid
Through Medicaid and CHIP, you can apply for insurance at any time during the year. The only caveat is that you must determine whether or not you or your child qualify. You can easily visit either of their pages and apply, though you should note that the qualifications for programs like Medicaid depend highly on your income, employment, and other factors that will be determined by your state.
Extended Open Enrollment
There are currently ten states that have extended their open enrollment beyond December 15 to ensure that everyone has a chance to obtain insurance for the new year. The following states are currently participating:
Connecticut — December 22
Maryland — December 22
Rhode Island — December 31
Colorado — January 12
Minnesota — January 14
Washington State — January 15
Massachusetts — January 23
Washington, D.C. — January 31
California — January 31
New York — January 31
If you are not in one of the aforementioned areas currently extending open enrollment, there are still some states that have extended their enrollment periods due to hurricane-related damages and circumstances beyond the control of the individuals seeking coverage. This SEP will allow residents to enroll until December 321, 2017, and to qualify, you need to reside in, or previously resided in an area that has been affected by the hurricane. The following states are offering extended coverage:
- South Carolina
In addition to those three states, the state of Texas has 47 counties have had also extended their open enrollment period.
The cutoff date can be an issue for many people, but the SEP’s and other circumstances can help to alleviate some of the pressure. Find out if you qualify for any of the special circumstances that have been listed, especially if you missed the enrollment period. Remember, if you did qualify for any of the Special Enrollment periods that we mentioned above, any of the coverage that you obtain as a result will go into effect on January 1, 2018.