( by Andres Rojas )
Health insurance is one of those things you rarely think about until it’s too late. However, with 2021 almost here, you’re running out of time to buy insurance.
The open enrollment period lasted from November 1 to December 15 2020. In other words, if you didn’t register through the federal health insurance marketplace (healthcare.gov), then, you’ll have a hard time doing it now.
But don’t lose your hopes yet because you can still apply for health insurance if you meet certain qualifications. So grab a pen and paper, take as many notes as you need, and make sure you use the info listed below to buy health insurance today.
What are health insurance marketplaces?
Health insurance marketplaces, also known as health exchanges, are online platforms where you can buy health insurance. Marketplaces were created by the 2010 Affordable Care Act (a.k.a Obamacare) as a way to extend health coverage to citizens who didn’t have employee health coverage or even enough money to get insured.
Marketplaces are ideal for citizens who can’t get employee health coverage, are self-employed, unemployed, or don’t have enough money to buy private insurance. Although healthcare.gov is the most popular exchange, there are 15 states that have their own marketplaces.
What do marketplace plans cover?
Marketplaces offer a safe place to shop for health coverage. All marketplace plans cover things like:
- Pre-existing conditions
- Preventive care
- Prescription drugs
- Lab exams
- Pediatric care (including both dental and eye care)
- Birth control, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and newborn care
- Emergency services
- Hospitalization for surgery and serious illnesses
- Mental health
If you have a low income, you can also get a tax credit that will lower your monthly insurance payments or sign up for Medicaid – the federal government’s health program for low-income Americans. However, to enroll in the federal marketplace, you must create a healthcare.gov account and buy a plan during the open enrollment season (November 1- December 15 2020).
Most state-based marketplaces are still open
The federal marketplace’s enrollment deadline is over. However, you can still apply for health insurance in 2021 if you live in any of the 15 states that run their own marketplace.
As of December 15, the following state-based marketplaces are still open (click on the state’s name to go to your marketplace):
- California – until January 31 2021
- Colorado – until January 15 2021
- District of Columbia – until January 31 2021
- Massachusetts – until January 23 2021
- Minnesota – until December 22 2020
- Nevada – until January 15 2021
- New Jersey – until January 31 2021
- New York – until January 31 2021
- Pennsylvania – until January 15 2021
- Rhode Island – until January 23 2021
States with marketplaces whose enrollment deadline is over include:
- Connecticut – ended on December 15 2020
- Idaho – ended on December 15 2020
- Maryland – ended on November 13 2020
- Vermont – ended on December 15 2020
- Washington – ended on December 15 2020
Missed your opportunity? You might still qualify for a special enrollment period
If your state’s enrollment deadline is due, you can still apply for health insurance if you qualify for a special enrollment period — this is a time outside the normal enrollment period when you can buy healthcare.
To qualify for a special enrollment period, you’ll need to prove that you’ve just undergone a major life change that increases your need for health coverage. According to healthcare.gov, you can enroll outside the open enrollment period if you:
- Lost your private, student, family, or employee health coverage.
- Have recently gained or lost a family member — through marriage, divorce, birth, death, etc.
- Changed your place of residence.
- Had your income reduced significantly.
- Just became a US citizen.
- Moved into the US from another country or US dependency.
- Missed open enrollment because you were incarcerated.
- Have an employer willing to cover part of your marketplace plan’s health expenses.
- Recently became a member of a federally recognized tribe.
- Recently started or ended your career in AmeriCorps.
State-based marketplaces also have special enrollment periods of their own. Though most of the qualifying changes are the same, some of these may vary by state. Click on your state to find out what is a qualifying life event in your state.
Don’t wait until your enrollment deadline is over
No matter if you are young, old, rich, or poor, time catches up with all of us. Indeed, you might feel great today. But what would happen to your family if (God forbid) you caught COVID-19 or had an accident tomorrow?
If life throws you a curveball like that, you’ll need all the help and money you can to get you out of trouble. So make sure you apply for health insurance as soon as possible to start 2021 on the right track!