The Obama administration announced on March 26 that they are allowing more time for consumers to enroll in a health insurance plan on the Federal marketplace. If they have started an application by Monday, March 31. This news has caused some confusion, and we are here to clear up a few things up…
The official statement from Health and Human Services (HHS)
“Open enrollment ends March 31. We are experiencing a surge in demand and are making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment—either online or over the phone.”
What does this mean for you the consumer?
If you begin the enrollment process before March 31st but cannot get your application submitted due to technical issues stemming from high user volume, or you have a complex application that cannot be approved by March 31st, then there will be an extension of a few weeks (until mid-April) to complete your application (the exact time frame has not been specified yet). This does not mean that you can start your application after the March 31st deadline. The extension is only for people who begin their applications before the March 31st deadline.
*Please note – this applies to the Federal Marketplace. If your state has a state Marketplace, you might be locked out after the March 31st deadline (this will depend on your state). If you do not have insurance you will get assessed a penalty depending upon your income.
How do you get the extension?
Consumers will be able to qualify for the extension by checking a blue box on HealthCare.gov to indicate that they tried to enroll before the deadline.
If you have already began a health insurance application on HealthCare.gov and are trying to finalize it you will be allowed to do so after the March 31st deadline.
Official Statements from HHS:
- View the complete list of circumstances that will qualify for this enrollment extension
- Guidance for Issuers on Special Enrollment Periods for Complex Cases in the Federally-facilitated Marketplace after the Initial Open Enrollment Period
- Guidance for Issuers on People “In Line” for the Federally-facilitated Marketplace at the end of the Initial Open Enrollment Period
- Addressing the needs of victims of domestic abuse under the Affordable Care Act
Two assister fact sheets from HHS:
- Assisting consumer who are trying to enroll by March 31st
- Helping Consumers with complex cases enroll in special enrollment periods in the Health Insurance Marketplace
What if you want to begin your application after the March 31st deadline?
In this situation you would need to follow the HHS protocol for applying for a special enrollment period. Review these resources for more information about the special enrollment periods:
- HealthCare.gov Q&A: How do I report life changes to the Marketplace?
- HealthCare.gov Q&A: Can I get coverage outside of open enrollment?
Helpful Tips for Last Minute Marketplace Enrollees
- Start your Enrollment Process Now! Do not wait any longer!
- If you do not have an email address you might want to create one on sites such as, www.gmail.com and www.yahoo.com.
- If you are eligible to purchase health insurance on the Health Insurance Marketplace, create an account as soon as possible (https://www.healthcare.gov/marketplace/b/welcome/). This is helpful to avoid website delays as the enrollment deadline nears and the number of people using the website dramatically increases.
- Visit your states marketplace website to explore your coverage options. Answer a few questions and receive a preliminary determination of the health coverage options you may qualify for. If you need information about what your states Health Insurance Marketplace website is visit this link from Enroll America or this link from Healthcare.gov.
- If you are meeting with a navigator to help you enroll, which might be helpful if you have complex medical conditions make sure you have come prepared with documents on this list. This will help facilitate a speedy enrollment process. These documents include a valid driver’s license or state issued ID, W2s, pay stubs, and information related to other individuals who live in your household or dependents you may claim on your taxes.
- Attend an enrollment event in your community to meet with a navigator and get enrolled. Check out Enroll America if you are not sure about where to get help in your community from a navigator.
- If you want to see specific doctors contact those doctors to check if they will accept the Market place plan you might choose.
- Make sure you know when you have to pay your first premium. Some plans require immediate payment of your first premium.
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