When Can You Buy Health Insurance?

When Can You Buy Health Insurance?

What do health insurance and Michigan craft beer have in common? Perhaps more than you might think.

If you’re a craft beer enthusiast, you may look forward to certain seasons when you can buy your favorite ale or lager. Once the season’s over, you have to wait another whole year before you’ll see that favorite beer reemerge at your local pub.

So what’s this have to do with health insurance? Well, if you don’t get your insurance through an employer, chances are you’ll have to buy your own plan during a few months out of the year. This window of time, called “open enrollment,” is designated by the Center of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

This year, the 2016 open enrollment period will take place November 1, 2015 through January 31, 2016.

But what if you missed open enrollment and need coverage before next year? Can’t you just buy health insurance whenever you want, like a case of Michigan beer? Not really.

According to CMS guidelines, you can only change or buy a health insurance plan outside of open enrollment if you’ve experienced certain changes in your life circumstances that make you eligible for a special enrollment period. These are called qualifying life events and are determined by CMS guidelines and requirements (not by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan).

Here are some examples CMS cites as qualifying you for special enrollment:

  • Getting married
  • The birth or adoption of a child
  • Losing health coverage (job loss, divorce, or death)
  • Moving to a different area if it affects your plan
  • Turning 26 and dropping off your parent or guardian’s plan
  • COBRA expiration
  • Changes in income that may affect eligibility for tax credits or cost-sharing reductions
  • Losing eligibility for Medicaid, Healthy Michigan Plan or Children’s Health Insurance Program
  • Becoming a U.S. citizen
  • Leaving jail or prison

Because these circumstances can have a big impact on the kind of health plan a person or family needs, they may qualify someone for special enrollment. So while Michiganders may not look forward to buying health insurance as much as they do craft beer, keep in mind open enrollment is only for a limited time each year.

Photo credit: Michael Saechang

If you think you may be eligible for a qualifying life event, you can connect with a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Health Plan Advisor by calling 855-237-3501 or visit one of our statewide walk-in centers.

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