Understanding the Obamacare Open Enrollment Period

In health insurance, Obamacare is one of the offerings that many people are looking to. It is important that you realize that the open enrollment period is the only time that you can apply for this insurance unless you meet certain conditions. For the 2016 plan year, this time period begins on November 1, 2015 and ends on January 31, 2016. The Department of Health and Human Services offered a special enrollment period for those who would be facing a penalty for not having insurance in 2014, but this will probably not be offered for the 2015 tax period, as people should generally know about the tax penalty due to having to pay it on their 2014 tax return.

Open Enrollment Period Extended for 2014 Tax Season

To help people who were facing the uninsured penalty for 2014, The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) allowed a special enrollment period. They had to live in a state that uses the Federal exchange and meet three conditions to qualify for this time of enrollment.

  • Not be currently enrolled for coverage in 2015
  • Attest that they paid the uninsured penalty on their 2014 tax return for being uninsured
  • Attest that they did not know about the uninsured penalty until they filed said return
  • While this gave people additional time to apply for coverage, it is now over and this special enrollment period will most likely not be repeated.

Obama Health Insurance Lock Out Period

At the end of the enrollment period, those who do not have health insurance will not be able to purchase it until the start of the next open enrollment. While they may not be able to get coverage until January 1, 2016 at the earliest, they can still choose to purchase an off-exchange insurance, such as a short term plan or a large group plan. It is important to note, however that a short term plan will not qualify as creditable coverage to keep you from having to pay the noninsured penalty and it will not be subsidized, which may cost you more in premiums. This tax penalty is the greater of 2% of your taxable income or $325 per adult, whichever is greater. If you sign up late for a health plan, this penalty can be reduced according to the time which you have coverage and if you were uninsured for less than 3 months, you could be exempt from the penalty altogether. This penalty can quickly add up if you have a family, which is why it is essential that you purchase insurance through your employer or through the marketplace to prevent having to pay this significant penalty. A qualified life event can offer you a special enrollment period of up to 60 days that is not connected to the open enrollment period. These events include marriage, moving outside your provider network, birth or adoption, losing your existing health coverage, technical enrollment errors, display errors, etc. To see if you qualify for coverage due to a life event, you can visit the website and put in your information. It will let you know if your life event qualifies for enrollment during the year. Additionally, there is no lockout period for those who are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP, which allows these consumers to enroll at any time during the year. If you do not qualify for the special enrollment, this could be a consideration for you.

Getting Insured for the 2015 Tax Season

While the open enrollment period is now closed for the 2015 tax season, if you have a change in status, you may be able to prevent having to pay the health insurance penalty. Life changes that are included are job loss, childbirth, and other changes in your life. If you meet one of these conditions, then you can apply for enrollment via your state’s insurance marketplace website or the healthcare.gov site. Read more

Applications that are submitted the first 15 days of the month can have coverage as early as the first day of the following month, while applications during the last half of the month can have coverage as early as the first day of the second following month. If you submit your insurance application during the open enrollment period before December 15th, then your coverage can become effective by January 1st of the next year. On-exchange health plans can be purchased through a health exchange marketplace, such as healthcare.gov or through an insurance carrier that sells plans on the exchange or through an insurance broker. By doing your research, you can make sure that you are able to purchase health insurance and prevent having to pay the tax penalty that comes from not being insured.

Auto Enrollment of Obama Health Insurance

If you were enrolled in an Obamacare plan for 2015, then you will be automatically enrolled for 2016. You can switch your health plan during the open enrollment period, but not at any other time of the year unless you have a qualifying life event. That is why you want to carefully evaluate your plan and determine if you need to make changes in your coverage for the next period. To receive subsidies, you have to enroll during open enrollment or if you are doing it another time of the year, due to a qualifying life event. Otherwise, you will have to purchase off-exchange insurance, which will not offer you the subsidies to help reduce the premium cost. Enrolling in the health insurance market place or on-exchange, is the only way to receive the subsidies offered by the government. While the open enrollment period may seem as if it is not long enough, it should more than offer you enough time to prevent having to pay the noninsured penalty on your taxes. By taking the time to find the right plan for you and your family, you can head off the tax penalty and give you and your family access to the health care that you deserve. Visit your state’s insurance marketplace or healthcare.gov to research your options.