Updating Your Health Care Exchange Plan
by Bobby Willover
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Getting ready for the holidays is on the minds of many, but it’s also time to think about your healthcare options for 2016. If you have coverage through your employer, you’re good to go. If you’re shopping for coverage, here’s some important information you should know about the federal Exchange.
The enrollment period for the federal HealthCare Exchange, or Marketplace, is November 1, 2015 through January 31, 2016. If you enroll by December 15, you’ll be covered starting January 1. Enrolling after December 15 but before January 15 means you’ll be covered starting February 1. And if you enroll between January 15 and January 31, your coverage will start March 1.
If your state has its own healthcare exchange/marketplace, the enrollment period may be different from the federal one. You need to check with your state’s exchange/marketplace to find out the enrollment period.
If you purchased healthcare coverage through the marketplace last year, it’s wise to review your coverage information, even if you plan to keep the same insurance. But you may also want to consider choosing new coverage, because plans and pricing change every year. It's always a good idea to check to see if more affordable coverage is available.
When you review your personal information, be sure to make updates based on your best estimates for 2016. For example, you might need to update your expected income or the number of people in your household.
Why is this so important? Having up-to-date information is the only way to make sure that your Premium Tax Credit (PTC) is accurate. If your estimated income or household size is wrong on your enrollment, giving you more PTC, you'll end up paying back the difference when you file your federal taxes. Nobody likes that kind of surprise.
IMPORTANT: Don’t assume you’ll be automatically re-enrolled for 2016. It’s not a sure thing. If you want to remain covered on January 1, be proactive and re-enroll by December 15. Keep in mind, any gap in coverage lasting three months or longer could earn you a penalty on your taxes for being uninsured.
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