Open enrollment is here, and that means it’s time to choose the health plan that’s right for you and your covered family members. The open enrollment period only happens once a year – from November 15th to February 15th; if you neglect to enroll during that time, you’ll most likely have to wait until next year’s enrollment period rolls around – and that can wind up being incredibly costly if you need extensive healthcare before then.
If you find yourself scratching your head and asking yourself – and anyone who will listen – “What is open enrollment, and what do I have to do?” here’s what you need to know:
As noted, if you fail to enroll by Feb. 15, you won’t be able to enroll until Nov. 2015 unless you qualify for special enrollment, which is open for people who’ve had a major life event like moving to another area, job loss, getting married or divorced or having a baby. Read more in the Affordable Care Act summary here.
- If you choose a new plan and want it to begin on Jan. 1, 2015, you need to enroll by Dec. 15.
- If you decide not to have healthcare coverage in 2015, you’ll be subject to a penalty as described in the Affordable Care Act summary. The penalty is assessed as either 2% of your taxable household income or $325 per person ($162.50 per minor child) with a maximum of $975, whichever amount is higher.
- If you have coverage in 2014, you may be automatically re-enrolled in the same plan or a similar one for 2015 unless you change your options.
Even if you have coverage for 2014, it pays to consider all your options to make sure you have the best coverage for your needs. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Read your plan carefully, and make sure it still offers the best benefit options and premiums for your needs for the coming year.
- Log into your account at HealthCare.gov to access your 2015 application. Review the entire application, even if you believe all the information is the same, and be sure to make any necessary updates which may save you money.
- Before automatically selecting last year’s plan, compare that plan with other plans, some of which may not have been available last year.
- Once you decide on a plan, enroll, and then confirm your enrollment with the plan provider to avoid fines.
- Be sure to pay your premiums on time.
To read more about your coverage options, you can visit the government’s website to read a summary of the Affordable Care Act and your rights and obligations under the act.