A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 89% of uninsured individuals aged 18 to 64 were unaware of the open enrollment period for health insurance that began in November. As 2014 comes to an end, the timetable for these individuals to act becomes even more important, or some of them could be ringing in the New Year with unexpected medical bills. This FAQ Friday, we’re focusing on why this enrollment period matters for individuals shopping on the marketplace:
Don’t I have until February to buy?
Technically yes, the last day to enroll in 2015 health coverage is Feb. 15. But just like car insurance, health insurance is not retroactive in most cases. So if you go to the emergency room on Jan. 1 with a broken arm (NYE celebration gone wrong?) and without health insurance, you can’t go out later and buy a policy to cover the bill. To have health coverage that starts on New Year’s Day, you must enroll by Dec. 15. If you wait until later in December, your coverage won’t kick in until February or later depending on when you apply. Just make sure you take care of enrollment by the Feb. 15 deadline for the 2015 year.
Do I have to buy it now if I’m getting married in six months?
Getting married is a qualifying life event that would allow you to get health coverage after Feb. 15. However, if you are not getting married until summertime, you could still have to pay a fee if you remain uninsured for more than 3 months. You’re also taking a gamble with your health leading up to the big day if you opt to go without coverage. The same concept applies to other life events such as having a baby or dropping off of your parents’ coverage, so it’s important to think about life changes that could happen when open enrollment period comes around each year. See the graphic below for more information about qualifying life events.
Does the Feb. 15 enrollment deadline apply to everyone?
No, this deadline affects individuals who are buying their own coverage on the Marketplace. If you are eligible for other health coverage, this deadline likely doesn't apply to you. The Feb. 15 deadline also does not apply to Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or small businesses that can enroll at any time throughout the year. And if you have health coverage through your job, your open enrollment period depends on your employer, so talk to your HR department about key dates.