ObamaCare makes it more difficult to buy insurance year-round

Here’s more fallout from the health care law: Until now, customers could walk into an insurance office or go online to buy standard health care coverage any time of year. Not anymore.

Many people who didn’t sign up during the government’s open enrollment period that ended Monday will soon find it difficult or impossible to get insured this year, even if they go directly to a private company and money is no object.

  • With limited exceptions, insurers are refusing to sell to individuals after the enrollment period for HealthCare.gov and the state marketplaces. They will lock out the young and healthy as well as the sick or injured. Those who want to switch plans also are affected. The next wide-open chance to enroll comes in November for coverage in 2015.

It’s a little-noted consequence of President Obama’s health care overhaul, which requires nearly all Americans to be insured or pay a fine and requires insurers to accept people with health problems.

  • Those who act now may still be able to get in, depending on where they live. Following the lead of the government marketplaces, some companies are extending off-marketplace sales for a week or a month to help people who hit snags trying to enroll by this week’s deadline. Rules vary from state to state.

After those extensions, eligibility for coverage during 2014 is guaranteed only for people who experience certain qualifying life events, such as losing a job that provided insurance, moving to a new state, getting married, having a baby or losing coverage under a parent’s health plan.

  • The federal law doesn’t prevent companies from selling policies to everyone all year. But insurers consider it too risky now that the law prohibits them from rejecting people in poor health.

“If you didn’t have an open enrollment period, you would have people who would potentially enroll when they get sick and dis-enroll when they get better,” said a spokesman for insurer Kaiser Permanente. “The only insured people would be sick people, which would make insurance unaffordable for everyone.”

  • A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation in mid-March found that 6 out of 10 people without insurance weren’t aware of the marketplace deadline on March 31. The Obama administration, insurance companies and nonprofit groups scrambled to spread the word, often with messages that focused on the cost savings available to many people through the government marketplaces.

There wasn’t much public discussion about people who prefer to buy policies outside the marketplaces, sometimes finding better deals or options more to their liking.

  • A Health and Human Services spokesman pointed to a cryptic note on the HealthCare.gov website: It says “in some limited cases some insurance companies may sell private health plans outside the marketplace and outside open enrollment” that satisfy the law’s coverage mandate. It doesn’t say how to find any companies doing that.

A health law expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said it’s “highly unlikely” that companies will offer such coverage after the deadline window fully closes. Some do still offer temporary plans, lasting from a month to a year. But those plans don’t cover pre-existing conditions and don’t get buyers off the hook for the law’s tax penalty.

*Modified from a FoxNews.com article

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