If you wanted to sign up for a 2018 health plan sponsored by the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, then you may be disappointed to learn that the Open Enrollment period for the coming year just ended on December 15. The Open Enrollment period allows anyone who is eligible to enroll in a new plan or change their current plan without possibility of denial from an insurer. In most cases, if you missed the most recent Open Enrollment period, then you will probably have to wait until the next one in late 2018 to sign up for a subsidized health insurance policy.
You may have missed an important deadline, but you can still get health insurance. You may find a policy that is appropriate for you and your family on a state-run health insurance exchange which may have an extended OEP. If you meet certain eligibility requirements, you may also enroll in other health insurance programs like Medicaid or CHIP. Finally, if none of these options are available to you, you may purchase a plan from an insurer or a reputable insurance broker like Boost Health Insurance.
Advantages of Health Insurance
Many people who fail to enroll in an Obamacare health plan during the Open Enrollment period will attempt to go without insurance until the next OEP almost a year later. While it is natural to assume that you missed out on an opportunity and leave it at that, there are some compelling reasons why you should enroll in a health plan even if it isn’t an ACA-sponsored policy.
The most important reason to get insured is, of course, that the risk of a health crisis is very real and frightening. If you are over age 45, the average cost of a hospital stay is $12,500, and if you are between 18 and 44, the average cost is still $7,400. Even a minor emergency like a broken limb that could send you to an emergency room is, on average, more than $1,300, and that often doesn’t include follow-up medical services including medications, physical rehabilitation or doctor visits.
While a fractured arm or heart attack is a terrifying event, there may be even more dangerous health issues that you may not recognize. With almost every health plan now available, there are many mandatory health services which are covered and may even be free. These include immunizations, cancer screenings and annual checkups, which may not only prevent highly problematic health conditions from growing into major crises, but will also help you maintain optimal health so you can continue working and enjoying your life.
Finally, there is the issue of peace of mind. Not having health insurance is like gambling with your family’s lives and finances. You may eke by for a short while without health coverage, but eventually, you or someone you love is going to need medical care. If you can’t afford it, you could lose valuable assets or watch your loved one suffer.
Options If You Missed Open Enrollment
If you are upset that you didn’t join the 8.8 million other Americans who enrolled in an Obamacare health plan during this latest Open Enrollment, you should know that there are still some options available to you. You can still get health coverage for 2018, but it may require some work or a higher expenditure of cash.
The first thing you should do is check if your state government operates an independent health insurance exchange. Many of these state exchanges have longer Open Enrollment periods, some even extending into the early part of 2018. There may be some restrictions on enrollment through these state exchanges, so you should visit the exchange website as soon as possible to get all of the details.
If you live in a state that does not have its own exchange with an extended schedule, then you may wish to investigate enrollment into the Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). These programs are for low-income families, but each state has its own eligibility requirements. To learn if you are eligible to enroll, you should visit your state health department’s website and begin the application process. You can enroll in these programs at any time during the year.
For many people who underwent a life change, it may be possible to still get an Obamacare health insurance policy. If you experienced one of the following life changes, you may be able to enroll through a Special Enrollment period:
- A loss of health insurance
- A change in household size due to marriage, birth, divorce, death
- A change in residence
- Became a U.S. citizen, national, or legal resident
- Completed a period of incarceration
- Began or completed your AmeriCorps service
- Became an Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) Corporation shareholder
- You are a member in a federally-recognized tribe
- Lost eligibility for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
Getting Private Insurance
If you none of the previous options are available to you, then you should consider getting insurance from an insurer. You can choose between a full-term policy or a short-term policy. A short-term policy offers coverage for only three months and is intended for people who abruptly lose coverage from other sources. Unlike full-term policies that must adhere to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, short-term policies may not cover pre-existing conditions, include essential health benefits or guarantee acceptance. You should also know that a short-term policy cannot be renewed at the conclusion of the three month period.
If you want coverage for a longer period of time with all of the protections and privileges afforded under the ACA, you should consider obtaining a full-term policy. You may get these policies from an insurance agent that works for an insurer, or you may consider discussing your coverage options with an independent insurance broker like Boost Health Insurance. Insurance brokers are not employed by an insurer and may offer health plans that are not available to the general public.