Open enrollment has ended for 2018, but it doesn’t have to mean going a year uncovered. See what options you have outside of the open enrollment period.
You Missed Open Enrollment – Now What?
If you’re like more than half of health insurance shoppers, you may not have known that for most people, the window to buy a health plan under the Affordable Care Act for 2018 closed after December 15, 2017. This year’s open enrollment period was shorter than in years past, which typically ran through the end of January.
But don’t panic. If you missed open enrollment there are still options for you to get coverage.
Here are five tips to help you find the protection you need against unexpected medical costs this year.
1.Find out if you qualify for a special enrollment period
Generally speaking, your only chance to enroll in an Obamacare health plan outside of open enrollment is when you experience a major life change known as a “qualifying life event.”
Getting married or divorced, the birth or adoption of a child, the loss of employer-based coverage, moving to a new neighborhood, or major changes in your income all may qualify you to sign up outside of open enrollment. After such an event, you’ll have sixty days to enroll in a new Obamacare plan. You can find a list of qualifying life events here to learn if this applies to you and your family.
2. Know if you’re due an enrollment extension
Many people who had coverage in 2017 were automatically re-enrolled in new plans at the beginning of 2018. If your insurance policy was cancelled and you were automatically re-enrolled in a new 2018 plan with a different health insurance company, you may have until March 1, 2018 to enroll in a different plan that might be a better match for your coverage needs or budget.
3. Check out short-term health insurance plans
Just as the name implies, short-term health insurance plans are designed to provide you with a layer of protection for a limited period of time, even if it’s no longer open enrollment. Short-term health insurance plans are a good choice if you don’t want to go completely uninsured while you’re between jobs or waiting for a new insurance policy to kick in, or if you missed the latest Obamacare open enrollment period.
While not intended to serve as a replacement for major medical plans, many people turn to short-term health insurance when they can’t afford Obamacare coverage or can’t get it outside of open enrollment. These short-term health insurance plans are available all year long. Just know that short-term plans won’t prevent you from having to pay a tax penalty for going uninsured during 2018. And unlike Obamacare policies, you can be turned down for short-term coverage based on your medical history. These plans don’t cover preventive care or pre-existing medical conditions and you may need to re-apply for coverage every 90 days. Despite these drawbacks, short-term health insurance plans are popular.
4. Find out if you qualify for small group coverage
Many people are surprised to learn that they qualify to enroll in a small business health plan. If you run your own business, work as a consultant or independent contractor, and have one or more employees who aren’t an immediate family member, you may be eligible for small group coverage.
If you qualify, you can enroll in a small business health plan outside of open enrollment. Small group plans are available at any time during the year and typically include benefits similar to those offered by larger employers, at a competitive price. In fact, small business health insurance coverage often costs less on a per-person basis than Obamacare coverage you can buy on your own.
5. Look into medical insurance packages
Medical insurance packages are made up of several different supplemental insurance policies that are sold together in a bundle. Although they don’t generally cover pre-existing medical conditions or offer the comprehensive coverage of Obamacare plans, medical insurance packages often include policies that provide you with some financial help to cover the cost of doctor’s visits and hospital care, along with other non-insurance products like prescription drug discount cards, and there’s generally no time limit to your coverage.
Like short-term plans, they’re available all year long and typically cost significantly less than Obamacare coverage. Also like short-term plans, they don’t meet the requirements of Obamacare so buying one won’t protect you from the 2018 Obamacare tax penalty.