health care — December 08, 2016

3 Reasons to Update Your Health Insurance Before Dec. 15

by Susannah McQuitty

A man working on a computer at a coffee shop.

Heads up to everyone planning to use the Health Insurance Marketplace (or exchange): The November 1 to January 31 open enrollment period is about halfway over, and it’s a good idea to go ahead and choose or update your 2017 coverage plan before December 15 – a week from today. While you’re free to make changes until the last day of January, there are several great reasons to adjust your coverage before December 15.

Be covered on January 1

If you're new to, or need to make changes to your existing Marketplace coverage, why wait until February 1 or March 1 for the right plan to kick in? Updating by December 15 means that you’ll have all your new coverage options by the first of the year, which is two months sooner than if you wait and update in late January. Your new plan could save you money, so why pay more than you have to for the first two months of the year?

Healthcare enrollment dates for 2016.

Jump ahead of automatic enrollment

Automatic enrollment happens when you have health insurance through the Exchange but you don’t make any updates before December 15. If that day comes and goes with no changes, you’ll automatically be enrolled in the same plan you chose for 2016. The problem is that defaulting to your 2016 health plan might mean missing out on some money-saving plans or options that weren’t available last year.

Now, that’s not to say automatic enrollment is a bad thing: it’s a great backup in case you forget to enroll or you want to keep your current insurance plan. But if there are changes that you need to make to improve your coverage or reduce your costs, get those in place by December 15.

Mugs and hot drinks on an embroidered tablecloth..

Re-evaluate for life changes

If you have a Marketplace plan, it’s important to report life changes as soon as they happen – but if you didn’t, or want to think ahead, the open enrollment period is your chance to re-evaluate your health insurance needs for your new situation.

Life changes can affect income, employment status, state of residence or household size. It makes sense, then, that those events can also change your coverage needs, plan options, and how much premium tax credit you’re eligible for. Whether this means more or less savings for you, it’s important to provide accurate, truthful data to the Marketplace so you have the most appropriate coverage and assistance for your situation.

The best option: Go ahead and browse the Marketplace, do your research, and pick or update your insurance plan before December 15. That way, it’s smooth sailing through the rest of 2016 and the new year.


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