Open Enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act has begun.
Here are 5 things you need to know:
1. Time is limited! Open enrollment began on November 1, 2016. The last day to enroll or switch plans is January 31, 2017. After January 31, the ability to enroll in insurance is limited to people who qualify for a Special Enrollment Period as a result of experiencing a qualified life event such as losing health coverage, moving, getting married, having a baby, or adopting a child. Unfortunately, illness is not considered a qualified life event, so make sure to enroll on time.
Reentry coordinators take note: Release from incarceration is also considered a life event. However there is only a three month window to get coverage, so it should be addressed soon after release.
2. Update your application. “It’s important to update your application every year,” says Nora Cadena of Foundation Communities, a nonprofit offering support services to individuals and families in Central Texas. “Life happens and your life in 2017 will probably be a little different than it was when you enrolled back in 2015.”
3. Help is available. Insurance is complicated. If you need coverage for yourself or someone else, you don’t have to figure it out on your own. You can avoid the marketplace call center and talk directly with counselors who know your community. “We live here,” adds Cadena, “so we know the hospitals, the doctors, the networks the prescription costs. We know how things work in Texas and can help you choose the right plan.”
4. If you can’t afford insurance, you can still get coverage. Health insurance is required for everyone. The cost of available plans ranges depending on various factors, including income and family size. Individuals who can't afford the premium still have options. In addition to financial assistance that can make health insurance more affordable for qualifying individuals, there are other programs that can help in the interim with health care coverage.
5. You can’t be turned down for a pre-existing condition. Under the Affordable Care Act, you cannot be turned down for insurance because of a pre-existing condition.
To find an organization in your state that provides assistance with open enrollment and other healthcare options, search AuntBertha.com.