If you do not have health insurance through an employer, you should keep an eye out for the open enrollment 2024 period to obtain health insurance. You can start the application process for insurance through the Marketplace that was created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.
The open enrollment period is typically the only time of year when you can independently purchase health insurance if you do not have employer-sponsored health care or do not qualify for government-subsidized insurance plans.
You must pay attention to the enrollment deadline if you plan on applying for coverage through the Marketplace. The deadline for Obamacare’s open enrollment was shortened from 92 days to 45 days, which means it is more important than ever to look up the enrollment deadline ahead of time. If you fail to enroll during the ACA enrollment period, you must wait for a special event or for the 2021 enrollment period instead.
When the enrollment period is open, you can browse through all the plans available on the Marketplace in order to find the one that best suits your budget and medical needs. All plans meet the ACA requirements for minimum coverage. However, you can choose between gold, silver and bronze plans that differ in their terms.
When is Open Enrollment for 2023 available?
The Obamacare enrollment period begins Nov. 1, 2023, and continues through Dec. 15 of this year. Previously, the enrollment period lasted into January of the following year. However, due to recent policy changes made by the current presidential administration, the enrollment period has been cut in half.
If you have previously signed up for health insurance through the ACA, you should make note of the new enrollment period. If you miss the deadline for enrollment, you cannot enroll in a plan through the Marketplace until the next year’s period or until you meet a qualifying event for a special enrollment period.
You can enroll in an insurance plan during the open period by visiting the Marketplace online and selecting a plan that suits your medical needs and budget. The options available to you depend on your income and the state you live in. When selecting a plan, pay attention to:
- The cost of prescription medication.
- And other expenses.
If you qualify for coverage through Medicaid, Medicare or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), you may not need to use the Marketplace to find health insurance or wait for an open enrollment period. Instead, you can sign up directly for the program you qualify for. There are no mandatory open enrollment periods for health insurance benefit programs. If you qualify, you can sign up at any time of year and receive coverage immediately.
What happens if I miss health care open enrollment?
If you miss the Obamacare enrollment period, you cannot obtain insurance through the Marketplace until the next open period. Your only options for health care coverage would include the following:
- Employer-sponsored health insurance
- School-sponsored health insurance
- A special enrollment period
If you miss the open period and still need coverage, you can check to see if you meet the income and eligibility requirements for CHIP, Medicare or Medicaid instead. CHIP is reserved for children 19 years of age and younger whose parents cannot afford to purchase insurance but do not qualify for Medicaid. Medicare is generally meant for adults 65 years of age and older. However, there may be some exceptions where individuals younger than 65 years of age can qualify.
Medicaid is available to low-income Americans who cannot afford health insurance independently. However, there is a coverage gap between the ACA and Medicaid in some states. Therefore, many low-income Americans may not qualify for either Medicaid or ACA-subsidized health care.
If your employer offers health insurance, you can obtain health insurance through them. In some cases, your employer may have its own open enrollment period. It is important to ask your Human Resources department what your options are for getting coverage.
Finally, you may be eligible for ACA health care during a special enrollment period.
What is a special enrollment period?
If you miss the 2024 open enrollment period, you may still be able to enroll in a plan through the Marketplace. You can do this if you qualify for a special enrollment period (SEP). Qualifying events include but are not limited to:
- Loss of employer-sponsored health insurance.
- Loss of parents’ health insurance after turning 26.
- Loss of school-sponsored health insurance.
- Losing qualification for CHIP, Medicare or Medicaid.
- Marriage or divorce.
- Giving birth to or adopting a child.
- Death in the family affecting insurance coverage.
- Changes in residency.
- Changes in income.
- Changes in citizenship status.
You can check if you qualify for a SEP through the Marketplace. If you do qualify, you generally have 60 days from the date that the SEP took effect to enroll in health insurance.
It is important to check if you qualify for an SEP as soon as the life change takes place. This is because if you miss the 60-day window to enroll during your SEP, you must once again wait until the next ACA open enrollment period to sign up for coverage.
When does my health insurance kick in?
After starting the application steps for obtaining health care through open enrollment, your health insurance begins Jan. 1 of the following year. Therefore, if you purchase insurance between Nov. 1 and Dec. 15 of this year, your health insurance will kick in on Jan. 1, 2024. It is important to keep the start date in mind.
If you seek medical care between the date of purchase and Dec. 31, you will not have insurance to cover you. Instead, you will have to pay the full amount due independently.
You should also keep in mind that in order to obtain coverage through the Obamacare enrollment period, you must make your first premium payment on time. If you do not pay your first premium payment by the due date, your coverage will not kick in on Jan. 1.
If you purchase health insurance during an SEP instead, coverage typically begins after you make your first premium payment. It is important to check what the due date is for premium payments before enrolling.
Additionally, it is also important to check the terms of your health insurance coverage to confirm what the terms are, including when your plan kicks in, how much you must pay in deductibles before you receive coverage and more.