Beginning January 1st 2014, everyone in the United States was legally required to have either qualified health insurance or an exemption from such coverage. One of the easiest ways to get this health coverage is during Open Enrollment. The next Open Enrollment window will begin November 1, 2017 and last until December 15, 2017.  

What is Open Enrollment?

Open enrollment is a three-month period during which anyone, regardless of any pre-existing conditions, may apply for health coverage through private employers at the Health Insurance Marketplace.  The Marketplace allows individuals and families to compare different policy options, deductibles, and costs for insurance coverage on one website. It also helps individuals to apply for coverage whose employers do not offer it.

Subsidies

When you apply for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you may qualify for specific subsidies which will reduce your monthly premiums or lower the cost of your coverage.

There are three main kinds of subsidies: Premium Tax credits, Cost Sharing Reduction subsidies, and Medicaid/CHIP subsidies. Premium Tax Credits lower the cost of your premiums, the amount you pay on a monthly basis. Cost Sharing Reduction subsidies reduce your out-of-pocket costs, though they only apply to Silver policies. Medicaid subsidies are for lower-income individuals who fall below the Federal Poverty Level, which varies from state to state. CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Policy) provides free or low-cost coverage for children and teenagers. Even if a family does not qualify for Medicaid, a child or teen may still have coverage options through CHIP.

In general, you can only apply for subsidies and coverage during Open Enrollment; however, if you have a qualifying life event such as marriage, birth, or unemployment, you may apply for both at any time.

These subsidies are specifically intended for lower and middle-income individuals and families. Most individuals qualify if they make less than 400% of the Federal Poverty Level. Keep in mind that although the Marketplace provides an estimate of savings, the actual savings may vary.

Advantages of Using the Marketplace

The benefits of the Marketplace depend on your particular needs, but include being able to:

  • Compare health coverage options quickly and easily
  • Find a policy that fits your budget
  • Compare different insurance providers
  • Obtain subsidies when you apply through the Marketplace

Although the average cost of health coverage varies between states, you can usually expect a monthly premium between $100 and $300. Deductibles vary significantly between policies and insurance providers, so your exact costs will be tailored to you.

Coverage Start Dates

Your coverage’s starting date depends on when you enroll in the Marketplace.  Typically, the coverage begins on the first day of the next month after you apply for the policy; however, if you are within a few days of the next month when you apply, your policy will not start until the following month. For example, if you apply on January 31st, then your coverage will likely start on March 1st.  Likewise, if you apply for a policy in November 2016, it will not take effect until January 2017.

Having great health insurance coverage can provide certainty in the face of both the routine and the unexpected.  Open Enrollment gives customers across the US a convenient way to see what is available to them and make an informed selection.  Don’t forget to mark your calendar for November 1, 2016 for the widest selection of health insurance options for you and your family.  

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