The future of the health insurance system in the United States is currently up in the air, and there is no guarantee that the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare will be around for that much longer. That being said, the basic provisions of the Affordable Care Act will still be in effect until at least the end of 2018. This means that anyone who wishes to sign up for a marketplace insurance plan or make sure that they avoid having to pay the tax penalty for not having insurance needs to make sure that they act during the open enrollment period.
Unlike in previous years when the enrollment period lasted for 90 days, the 2018 open enrollment period has been shortened to only 45 days and runs from Nov. 1 until Dec. 15, 2017. Unfortunately, this means that the end of the open enrollment period will be here before you know it. So with this in mind, here are five things you need to make sure you do before this enrollment period ends.
Determine Whether You’re Required to Have Health Insurance
Under the terms of the Affordable Care Act, everyone is technically required to have health insurance and will face a tax penalty should they remain uninsured. This is what is known as the Obamacare individual mandate, and it stipulates that everyone must pay a fee for all the months they don’t have health insurance. However, there are exemptions to this rule, and if you meet any of the qualifying exemptions you won’t face a tax penalty should you decide not to purchase health insurance. Some of the possible qualifying exemptions include:
- If you are not required to file a tax return because your total income is below the minimum filing level
- If the cheapest insurance plan available to you costs more than 8.05% of your total yearly income
- If you were uninsured for no more than two consecutive months in the year
- If you live in a state that didn’t expand its Medicaid program and you would have qualified had your state expanded
- If you are a member of a federally recognized tribe or certain religious sects or healthcare sharing ministries
If you do qualify for any of these exemptions, it is then up to you to determine whether or not you wish to purchase health insurance as there will be no penalty should you not have insurance.
One of the biggest benefits of Obamacare is that it expanded the available government subsidies, which has helped many lower income families to have lower insurance premiums. If your total family income is anywhere between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level, you qualify for premium tax credits that help to offset the cost of your health insurance. After you sign up for an insurance plan, the government pays these subsidies directly to the insurer so that you will pay lower monthly premiums. However, these subsidized premiums are only available for marketplace plans purchased on either the federal or state health insurance marketplace.
Unfortunately, marketplace plans can only be purchased during the open enrollment period. This means that if you do qualify for these insurance subsidies, it is essential that you act during the open enrollment period to make sure you take advantage of them. If you fail to act before the enrollment period ends, the only way you can purchase a marketplace plan and take advantage of the subsidies is if you can later qualify for a special enrollment period, such as if you’ve had a life-changing event like a wedding or childbirth.
In spite of the Obamacare individual mandate penalty, many Americans still choose not to purchase health insurance and instead simply pay the fine. However, if you are considering this option, it is still a good idea to make sure you know approximately how large of a penalty you will be facing in order to make a more informed decision. In most cases, the penalty will still cost you much less than purchasing insurance. Nonetheless, it is still important to know beforehand so you can consider your options.
If you wish to change your existing marketplace insurance plan or purchase a new marketplace plan, you must do so during the open enrollment period. However, if you wish to purchase a private health insurance plan, you can do this at any time of the year either directly through an insurance company or through a broker. Determining which plan is the best for you will depend on many different factors, including your income level and any specific health needs.
In many cases, purchasing a private insurance plan is the better option for those who can afford it. Nonetheless, the fact that you can only sign up for a marketplace plan during the enrollment period means that now is the time when you should be comparing all of your options. First Quote Health is a great source for comparing health insurance quotes and can serve as an invaluable tool for allowing you to determine whether a marketplace plan or private insurance plan is your best option. Finding affordable health insurance isn’t all that difficult, but the fact is that you will have far fewer options if you wait until the enrollment period has ended.
The Affordable Care Act 2018 enrollment period officially ends on Dec. 15, 2017, and anyone who is interested in purchasing a new plan or changing their existing plan really needs to act during this time. However, all is not lost if you forget to act until after the enrollment period has ended as you still have the option to purchase a private insurance plan outside of the healthcare marketplace. This is where First Quote Health can still be a major benefit, as it allows you to find health insurance quotes and compare plans to make finding affordable health insurance as easy as possible! Alternatively, you could also apply to receive a special enrollment period later in the year, which would still enable you to purchase a marketplace plan.
The fact that the enrollment period is ending soon means that everyone really needs to start considering their options immediately. Although you do still have options if you miss out on the enrollment period, it is still better to act now while you still have the option of purchasing either a marketplace or private insurance plan. Therefore, don't hesitate to check our First Quote Health to find health insurance quotes and compare plans before it's too late.