Are you one of the many Americans who missed Open Enrollment 2015? Despite your best efforts, did February 15th come and go and still you are uninsured? Perhaps you even missed, or did not qualify for, the Special Enrollment period that was in place until April 30th for those individuals who received a tax penalty on their 2014 tax return. If so, you are not wholly out of luck, though there are some things you should keep in mind.
Because we are now in the Special Enrollment Period, the rules regarding Qualifying Life Events are in full force. A Qualifying Life Event (QLE) is some special circumstance in your life that allows you to enroll in health insurance outside of Open Enrollment. As of now, the federal Marketplace has not announced any further exception to the rules of QLE’s, which simply means that you must have one in order to enroll in a health plan. It is a good idea to review the full list of Qualifying Life Events and if you have one, or if you anticipate having one in the near future, then that will serve as your opportunity to get insured. Keep in mind that you must complete an application for health insurance within 60 days of your Qualifying Life Event.
Another thing to note is that if you are uninsured for more than three consecutive months during 2015, you will incur a tax penalty on your next year’s tax return, unless you qualify for an exemption. It is also a good idea to take a look at the list of exemptions and who might qualify.
Finally, keep in mind that being insured is about so much more than incurring a tax penalty. It’s about having the coverage you need in case of a medical emergency and also about maintaining your physical and mental health through preventive care maintenance. Further, having to pay a tax penalty is like throwing your hard earned money out the window because you get nothing in return. On the other hand, although paying a monthly premium for health insurance may seem like a financial frustration, in the end it is money well spent. Your most precious commodity is your health and making an investment toward it is always a smart decision.
If you are still uninsured and do not foresee having a QLE in the next few months, you may still qualify for Short Term Coverage. Although not ideal in most circumstances and though it will not offer you the same level of benefits as an individual health plan, Short Term Coverage can be an effective way to fill in the gap between now and this year’s Open Enrollment which begins in November. Short term coverage has some limitations and will not save you from the tax penalty in that it does not meet the Affordable Care Act’s 10 essential requirements, but it is still better than having no coverage in case of a medical emergency.
The bottom line is you do have options. Although you may not be able to secure your first choice in health plans outside of Open Enrollment, you can be insured in the interim. Also, this is a great time to begin doing research about the Affordable Care Act, what subsidy might be available to you and how that subsidy might affect your federal income tax. Use this time to research the various health plans available to you and also what kind of network works best for you and your family. Open Enrollment begins again in November, which believe it or not, is only 5 months away. Even if you cannot obtain coverage during Special Enrollment, this is a great time to arm yourself with all the information and knowledge you will need to make the very best choice possible come Open Enrollment.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC is committed to helping the residents of North Carolina secure and maintain the health coverage you need. For more information on Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina health insurance coverage, the Marketplace and healthcare gov to apply for your subsidy, please visit our website at www.nchealthplans.com or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents. Let us help you navigate through the Health Care Reform changes in accordance with the new regulations of The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obama care.