For as long as I have worked full-time I have always had full benefits of health coverage. I then got married and decided to stay home with my children and my health coverage changed pretty drastically. My husband and looked at our costs whether to be covered by his job or get my own separate plan. What we discovered was that it would be more expensive to add me onto his plan and decided to pay out of pocket for my own health coverage. I was concerned for a long time and worried about how we could afford such a high payment for coverage on one salary. I consider myself a healthy person with no pre-existing condition and I even went for a whole year without coverage to see if we could save money. During that year, I was so stressed out knowing that I was not covered and I put off going to the doctors. Needless to say this was not a good option to take. We went back to paying out of pocket for health insurance and had myself back on a health plan as soon as possible. Thankfully we did this because I gave birth to a premature baby and the medical bills that came with that were tremendous. I can’t even imagine what our cost would have been if we had had no health insurance.
With that being said, we sometimes think we should put our health coverage on the back burner because it may be too expensive. But no one should be without it and here are reasons that you and your family should get the health coverage you need:
Three Reasons You Should Sign Up for Obamacare Before March 31st.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has brought major changes to health insurance for consumers.
You probably already know some of the highlights: that insurance companies can no longer turn people down or charge them extra because of pre-existing conditions; young adults can stay on their parents insurance until age 26, and there are no more lifetime limits on insurance policies.
But for people who are uninsured or have to buy their own insurance (versus getting it from your employer or Medicare), there are important facts about the new law that you may not know. The new state-based Health Exchanges are open now, but with Open Enrollment ending in March, it’s important to learn how these facts could affect you.
Here are three important reasons you should enroll before March 31:
1. After March 31, you can’t get covered by health insurance until next year. Unlike previous years, the majority of consumers will only be able to purchase private health insurance during the annual Open Enrollment Period. Except for specific, special circumstances, you can only buy coverage for this year until March 31, whether you’re shopping through your state’s Health Insurance Marketplace or outside it. This is a big change from the past.
You are still free to change your health plan every year if you want to, but you have to wait. Open enrollment for next year will commence on Nov. 15, 2014 and run through Jan. 15, 2015. But coverage purchased during this period will only kick in January 1, 2015 at the earliest. Simply put, if you don’t enroll by March 31, 2014, you won’t be covered by insurance until at least January 1, 2015.
What constitutes a “qualifying life event” to change your coverage outside of Open Enrollment? Consumers will be given 60 days to make a change if they are:
• Having a baby or a change in their marital status.
• Losing their existing plan, for instance by leaving a job.
• Having a change in income that makes them newly eligible or newly ineligible for tax credits to lower the cost of your premiums
• Moving to another state.
• Having an increase in income that makes them or a family member ineligible for Medicaid or CHIP.
• Becoming “lawfully present” in the United States by getting a green card or other long-term non-tourist visa.
• Getting out of jail.
What’s doesn’t qualify? Getting sick and suddenly needing urgent health care. That’s why it’s so important to get covered now.
2. You may be passing up free money for their health insurance.
More than three-quarters of the people who have purchased a plan through their Health Insurance Marketplace will be receiving financial assistance in paying their premiums, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. It’s quite possible that you could be one of them.
Depending on your family size and income, you may be able to lower your monthly premium through a tax credit called the “Advance Premium Tax Credit.” For example, a family of 4 with an income up to approximately $94,000 would qualify for help. Without checking,you could be passing up this money to help pay for insurance. For a quick, easy way to see if you could qualify visit Consumer Reports’ HealthLawHelper.org.
Note: if your income is low enough, you or your children may be eligible for government-funded Medicaid and CHIP programs for lower-income Americans. These programs are exempt from open enrollment and you can sign up at any time.
3. Waiting until the last minute may leave you scrambling.
Enrollment in new insurance plans has dramatically increased since the initial website hiccups but there are still millions of consumers that need to review their options and you don’t want to get caught up in the last minute shopping frenzy.
Plus, if you care about getting coverage started before May 1st you’ll need to take action sooner. Insurance plans purchased after March 15 may leave you waiting until May 1 for that coverage to kick in. The delay results from the two weeks needed to process applications and insurance plans tend to start on the 1st day of the month.
We also advise having plenty of time, even a few days, to make your decision. Depending on where you live you may have several different plan options to pick from with varying deductibles, co-pays, networks of doctors, and monthly premiums. It’s important to review those options carefully, not in the 11th hour before open enrollment closes.
NOTE: Consumer Reports has a range of independent and unbiased health insurance experts who are available to advise and answer questions on Obamacare 7-days a week.
Time is running out! and if you have not signed up for Obamacare do it NOW – Deadline is March 31, 2014.
Required Disclaimer: I am participating in a paid outreach program for Consumer Reports.