health care — October 24, 2016

Heads Up – Healthcare Enrollment Opens November 1

by Susannah McQuitty

Women  walk  on a path with water bottles and backpacks

Following what's set out by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, November 1 opens the health care plan enrollment period for the health insurance Marketplace. All that fancy lingo just means that if your work doesn’t provide health insurance, it’s time to sign up for or to update your insurance on the Marketplace.

What is open enrollment for health insurance plans?

With any health insurance, you’re only allowed to change or update your coverage during a window of about two or three months, once a year. That’s because, by nature, insurance needs to be static so that people don’t game the system by changing their plans whenever something bad comes up. So every year there is a set period for you to enroll or update through the health insurance exchange, or Marketplace.

Do I need to enroll?

If you don’t have healthcare, the answer is YES. Not only is it smart to have health insurance, it’s also kind of required now by the ACA (with few exceptions). If you or any of your dependents aren’t insured, you’ll get penalized more and more each year you aren't covered. Don’t have healthcare through work? You can get insurance through a private insurance company or the government-run Marketplace. And you may qualify for a premium tax credit or other savings options that can help you get a plan, so there’s really no reason not to be insured.

Now, if you do have insurance offered through your job but you’re thinking about using the Marketplace, you may want to take some time to think about that. Employees who turn down employer-provided healthcare may not qualify for some credits and deductions, because their use of the government-run Marketplace doesn’t come from need. It’s probably best for you to take advantage of work-provided insurance rather than the Marketplace.

How long is open enrollment?

So how much time do you have to browse the Marketplace for your 2017 health insurance? Open enrollment lasts from November 1, 2016 to January 31, 2017. You can be covered as soon as January 1, if you enroll before December 15, 2016. Just make sure to get all your changes in by the January 31 deadline, because after that your healthcare plan is locked and loaded for the rest of the year. There are a few exceptions due to life events, like childbirth, losing other coverage, and some emergency situations, that allow you to change your healthcare details outside of the open enrollment period. Otherwise, you’ll want to go ahead and enroll now.


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