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Technically, you can buy health insurance anytime of year - but there are many plans that are only available during open enrollment or during a special enrollment period if you qualify for one. The open enrollment clock is already ticking away for 2019 coverage - here's what you need to know.
Why Choose A Marketplace Plan For 2019
Open enrollment for 2019 runs from November 1st through December 15th of 2018, then it stops. There is some variation in the exact days of the period, however, from state to state, so be sure to check your state specifically before assuming it's too late.
For those who qualify for subsidies, there's a good chance that a plan off the exchange is your best bet for affordable, quality health insurance. As always, you cannot be denied coverage or charged extra based on a preexisting condition.
Also, this year premiums may have gone up moderately, but not as excessively as in the past. Plus, many exchanges have seen more insurers join, creating more options and more competition for consumers.
By choosing a marketplace plan of the metal level that best fits your needs and budget, you often stand to save the most possible on health insurance. However, off-exchange plans are sometimes a better deal for those who get little to no subsidies.
Whether you shop on or off the exchange, all plans must be ACA-compliant, although the individual consumer tax penalty has been repealed for 2019. If that repeal is not made permanent, however, it will return in 2020. Those uninsured without an exemption for 2018, still face the penalty.
What About Special Enrollment and Short-Term Medical Plans?
Subsidies for 2019 exchange plans are higher than ever before in most cases, but if you missed open enrollment or if you don't qualify for a subsidy, you still have options. First of all, you may be able to get permission to apply during a special enrollment period if you qualify.
Special enrollment lets you apply up to 60 days following such "life events" as:
Additionally, you might want to consider secondary insurance that covers accidental injuries and/or catastrophic illnesses to supplement the temporary insurance - or your regular permanent policy.
Opting For An Off-Exchange Health Plan
If you make 400% or more of the poverty level, you won't be able to get much, if anything, in federal subsidies. You can still get significant cost-sharing reductions on Silver plans at 250% the poverty level.
But if you are certain that you won't be eligible for subsidies, then it makes more sense to shop for off-the-exchange plans. That may give you more flexibility as to be able to apply for and get coverage at any time of year, depending on the particular insurer.
An experienced health insurance agent can help you understand whether you should be looking on or off your state's exchange and which type of plan might prove most beneficial to you in the year ahead. To speak to an agent today, contact Summerlin Benefits Consulting for free, expert advice!