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Can you buy health insurance now?

  • In most states, a special COVID-related registration period is available beginning in February 2021.
  • Consumers in most states can purchase short-term coverage at any time during the year, and coverage can take effect in a few days, often the next business day.
  • If you have a qualifying minor or are a U.S. citizen, you can purchase ACA-compliant coverage today, but you may need to wait until at least the beginning of next month before the coverage takes effect.
  • If you don't have a qualifying minor, you can't purchase ACA-compliant coverage until enrollment begins.
  • If you meet the Medicaid or CHIP eligibility requirements for the state you live in, you may be able to enroll in Medicaid or CHIP and get immediate coverage.
  • People with modest incomes in New York, Minnesota, and Massachusetts can enroll in health programs throughout the year.

The fact that you are reading this article indicates that you will soon need to purchase health insurance coverage. So what are your options for buying a health plan in the individual health insurance market today, tomorrow, or at any other time of the year?

It depends on the type of insurance and the time of registration

The first thing to know before purchasing health insurance is that purchasing health insurance coverage is not the same as having valid coverage. You may be able to enroll in a health plan today, but that coverage may not be in effect for several weeks.

In the ACA compliant market, private health plans may have valid dates for the first day of the month only (excluding newborns or newly adopted babies) and depending on the date you submit, your effective date may be the first of the second. the next month.

But plans not regulated by the ACA may offer valid dates once the day after the application is submitted. Medicaid can bring your effective date back to the beginning of the month you apply, or even earlier in many states. Not only does the date of your event really depend on the time it was presented, but also the type of coverage you get.

So what are your options to get effective coverage as quickly as possible?

1. ACA compliant coverage with the COVID registration window

Open enrollment for ACA-compliant 2021 individual / family health plans has expired, but consumers in most states have access to a special COVID-related enrollment period; Some are already being rolled out and most will start in mid-February.

In most states, including the 36 states that use as their marketplace, plan selections made during the COVID-related special registration period will be effective the first day of the month following registration, even if you register. directly at the end of a month. However, on some state exchanges, you must register by the 15th of the month for your plan to take effect on the first of the following month. And in Maryland (the COVID registration window continues through March 15, 2021), coverage may have an effective retrospective date for people who register during the first 15 days of each month.

COVID-related special registration periods have variable deadlines, but many of them last until mid-May 2021. Check the market in your state to see if the COVID-related special registration period is available, and if so, who is eligible to register (i.e. only uninsured residents or a broader group) and when the period expires.

2. Short-term solution

For millions of Americans, buying a short-term health insurance plan provides the fastest route to a certain level of coverage. These plans are not ACA compliant, but they can still provide protection against unexpected medical expenses, and you can purchase plans at any time during the year, if available in your area.

This means you can buy a short-term plan today, and if approved by the underwriting process, you can have coverage in effect tomorrow. The option of setting an immediate effective date for short-term plans is particularly attractive to consumers who plan to purchase ACA-compliant coverage but have to wait days or weeks before coverage takes effect.

(It is important to understand that most short term insurers have a very basic underwriting process at the time of application and tend to rely instead on underwriting after claims, so a quick approval process can be done ).

As the name suggests, the coverage is temporary. But federal regulations that went into effect in 2018 allow short-term plans to have initial terms of up to 364 days and a total duration, including renewals, of up to three years. However, many states have their own rules that limit short-term plans to shorter periods than the federal rules allow. Read about the availability of the short-term plan in your state.

3. ACA compliant coverage with a qualifying event

You may be one of the millions of Americans who prefer to purchase an ACA-compliant health plan because the plans are comprehensive and for many, affordable, thanks to premium subsidies and cost-sharing subsidies. As mentioned above, people in most states have access to a special registration period related to COVID in early 2021. But there are some state exchanges that have not announced a special registration period related to COVID, and in some Of those that do, the Registration window is only available to people without insurance, as opposed to people who want to make a plan change.

If you are looking for a minerals plan outside of the open annual registration period and cannot use a special registration period linked to COVID, you will still be able to register if you have a qualifying life event. If you have a qualifying minor, you may qualify for a special enrollment period and be able to purchase a plan that puts your coverage into effect without waiting until the beginning of 2022.

If you have a qualifying event, in most cases, your coverage will be effective on the first of the following month or the first of the following month, depending on which month you register late. (Typically, if you sign up during the first 15 days of the month, your coverage will be effective on the first day of the following month. Enroll after the fifteenth day and coverage will not begin until the first of the following month, beginning in 2022, HealthCare. gov will switch to using only the first of the following month regardless of when the request was submitted).

It is important to understand that, in many cases, you are only eligible for a Special Enrollment Period if you already have some type of minimum basic coverage prior to the qualifying event. You can read more about the rules for each type of qualifying event.

Native Americans can enroll in plans through an exchange throughout the year, although coverage does not take effect until the first of the following month or the first of the following month, depending on the date of enrollment (as with periods enrollment specials, Native Americans must register by the 15th day for coverage to be effective the first of the following month.)

If you don't have a qualifying minor and your state doesn't offer a special COVID-related enrollment period? As mentioned above, you'll have to wait until open enrollment (Nov. 1-Dec. 15 in most states) to purchase health insurance coverage, and the plan won't go into effect until next January. That is why many Americans seek short-term health insurance to bridge the gap between enrolling and obtaining coverage.

4. Sign up for Medicaid if you are eligible

If you live in a state that has accepted the ACA's Medicaid expansion and earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, you may be eligible to enroll in Medicaid. Better yet, enrollment in Medicaid is year-round.

Additionally, enrollment in CHIP is also available throughout the year and eligibility extends to higher income levels than Medicaid.

The good news is that if your application is successful, your Medicaid coverage will go into effect either on the date you apply or the first day of the month you apply. Here's better news for some applicants: Most states still have a three-month retroactive coverage period for Medicaid enrollees who would have been eligible in the months prior to their application. (States can request federal approval to retroactively cancel this coverage, and some have done so under the Trump administration)

So if you qualify for Medicaid but don't enroll for any reason, your state may provide coverage retroactive to the time you enroll. This could be very helpful if you received medical care in the days or weeks before your application was submitted.

This federal poverty level calculator will help you determine if you meet the Medicaid eligibility level in your state. Your eligibility for ACA benefits also depends on your income and the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) percentage.

5. Relatively low-income New York, Minnesota, and Masters residents can enroll year-round

New York and Minnesota have basic health programs (Basic Plan and MinnesotaCare), which provide year-round enrollment and are available to residents with incomes up to 200% of the poverty level.

Massachusetts has a program called ConnectorCare, which is available to residents with incomes up to 300 percent of the poverty level. Enrollment in ConnectorCare is available year-round, but only to newly qualified or unregistered individuals.

If you are in one of these states and have qualifying income, you may still be able to register for coverage regardless of the time of year.