Have you taken advantage of Open Enrollment for individual health insurance for 2016?
If not, you have until January 31st to complete your enrollment in an ACA (Obamacare) compliant plan.
Open Enrollment will also give you the opportunity to change carriers or categories of plans (Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum), even if you have already selected a plan that went into effect January 1st.
If you enroll on or before January 15th, your effective date will be February 1st. From January 16th until January 31st, your effective date will be March 1st.
After January 31st, you will not be able to enroll in an ACA approved plan until next year’s Open Enrollment.
The only exception to this rule is the occurrence of a “qualifying event”, which will allow you to enroll in coverage outside of Open Enrollment.
For those living in California the most common “qualifying events” are losing employer based group coverage, marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child. You will have 60 days from the date of the event to enroll in a new individual policy. If you miss the 60-day window you will be required to wait to enroll in a plan until the next Open Enrollment.
If you fail to enroll in a plan for 2016, the penalty for not being covered has increased. For an individual it’s THE GREATER of $695 or 2.5% of household income, not to exceed the average national cost of a Bronze plan of approximately $2700.
For a family calculation of the penalty is bit more complicated: $695 for adults, and $347.50 per child up to $2,085 OR 2.5% of household income, up to a maximum of approximately $13,300, WHICHEVER IS GREATER.
If you miss Open Enrollment you can still obtain short term medical coverage, hospital coverage plans, and other types of coverage for accidents or other specific occurrences.
However, these plans do not serve as a substitute for ACA approved plans, which means you still will be subject to the Obamacare penalty for lack of proper coverage.