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Open Enrollment is here!

The time to apply for insurance through The Affordable Care Act is now upon us! Millions of people across the country are busy at work, preparing themselves for the task of finding and/or updating their health insurance for the new year. Finding the right health insurance for you is a task of utmost importance, and in order to make the best decision possible, it is important to be as informed as you possibly can. Below are five key bits of information that you need to know about open enrollment and the health insurance marketplace before you apply!

1. Deadlines do Exist

If you have not been made aware of the timeline of events for open enrollment, let Bell and Associates Consulting Firm be the first to fill you in on all of the details:

  • November 1, 2015: Open Enrollment starts.
  • December 15, 2015: Last day to enroll in/change health care plans for new coverage.
  • January 1, 2016: Coverage for the new year starts for those who enrolled or change their plans by December 15th.
  • January 15, 2016: Last day to enroll in or change plans for new health care coverage that starts February 1, 2016.
  • January 31, 2016: 2016 Open Enrollment officially ends. Enrollments or changes between January 16 and January 31 not be set in motion until March 1, 2016.

Unless you qualify for the Special Enrollment Period, you MUST apply for a health insurance plan by the 31st of January; however, if you may apply anytime you wish for Medicaid and CHIP – there are no specific enrollment periods set in place to apply for those two programs.

2. Use of the Marketplace is Eligibility-Based

It has become a common misconception that any and everybody has the ability to use the health insurance marketplace – this is false! In order to be eligible to use the health insurance marketplace, you must:

  • Reside in the United States
  • Be a current U.S. citizen or be lawfully present
  • Not be incarcerated
  • Not have Medicare coverage

If you fit these requirements, you are more than free to continue and apply for health care coverage. If you do not meet these requirements, unfortunately you will not be able to apply during open enrollment. If you are not sure if you are eligible or simply want to learn more about certain definitions in eligibility, feel free to visit HealthCare.gov  or speak with Bell and Associates Consulting Firm; we have a highly trained staff that are well-equipped with the knowledge and skills to help you determine your eligibility and next steps.

3. The Lack of Qualifying Insurance = Penalty Fees

If you plan on obtaining health care insurance coverage for 2016, it is important that you go ahead and make sure you are actively working towards that goal, or else a penalty fee will be coming your way soon. Without qualifying health care coverage or Minimum Essential Coverage, you will be left open to paying the penalty.

Although some people may qualify for exemptions, most people will not, meaning that purchasing health care coverage is essential. If no coverage is purchased by the deadline, you could be subject to a penalty of either 2.5% of your income, or $695 per adult ($347.50 per child) — whichever is higher.

For more information on exemptions and fees, read about it here, or talk with your local insurance broker.

4. The Health Insurance Marketplace is for Those Without Coverage Only

The health insurance marketplace is only for those who have no health insurance coverage at all. If you have access to ObamaCare-approved coverage through a source such as a job, CHIP, Medicare, or Medicaid, you do not need the health insurance marketplace.

NOTE: You may purchase a plan through the Marketplace if you have insurance with your job. Most job-based insurance plans meet ACA standards, but you will have to pay full price if they do not.

5. Income Impacts Insurance

Your estimated income for 2016 – not your income for 2015 – will help determine what your premiums will be for your health care coverage. Once you determine your estimated amount of income, you will know if you are eligible for Medicaid, CHIP, or a premium tax credit. For more information on your personal eligibility and the qualifications of your state, click visit the HealthCare.gov website.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Don’t worry! Stop by Bell and Associates Consulting Firm for all of your ACA questions, comments, and concerns!

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