Take Kiara, a single woman in her late 20s who has always been insured by her employer.
About a month ago, Kiara was told that she would no longer have health insurance coverage through her job. She feels overwhelmed navigating the insurance world on her own and is unsure of next steps she should take.
She’s looked into COBRA coverage but the premium payments are too expensive without the help of her employer, and she’s interested in an individual health plan that fits her lifestyle. Unfortunately, the open enrollment period for health insurance is over, but she knows that she needs health coverage, should an accident or unexpected illness occur.
The good news?
Losing job-based health coverage is a qualifying life event, which means that Kiara qualifies for a special enrollment period. In 2015, more than 400,000 Americans had the opportunity to enroll in new health insurance coverage during a special enrollment period after losing their coverage, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. A special enrollment period allows you and your family to enroll in or change your health plan, outside of the open enrollment period.
Losing employer-sponsored health insurance isn’t the only qualifying life event. Other circumstances include aging out of a parent’s health plan, adding a dependent or spouse to your plan, or moving to a new state all usually offer you a special enrollment period. If you qualify, you can enroll for a new health plan through a health insurance carrier or with the help of an agent. You can also apply for subsidies to reduce the cost of your monthly premium or out-of-pocket expenses, by enrolling through Marketplace
You qualify. Now what?
The sooner you act, the sooner you’ll have coverage. Don’t let time escape you after you’ve lost your health insurance – you’re generally only allowed 60 days from the date you lost your coverage to enroll in a new health plan. The great news is, once you’re enrolled, your new health plan normally takes effect as quickly as the first day of the following month from the date you lost coverage.
Don’t go without coverage
If you forgo getting health insurance for all or part of the year, you won’t be able to enroll in health coverage until the next open enrollment period and you may have to pay a tax penalty. More importantly, this means you wouldn’t be covered in the event of unexpected illness or injury which could be financially devastating. If you have questions about your coverage options, consult an agent or request information from an insurance provider. These resources are available to make sure you get a plan that’s right for you and your family. And whether you opt in to COBRA coverage or enroll during a special enrollment period, the most important thing is that you’re covered.
Are you currently shopping for health insurance? Download the health insurance shopping guide below. Tip #4 provides a helpful chart that outlines acceptable forms of proof to secure your special enrollment coverage.