Instead of closing on December 31, 2017, open enrollment for Affordable Care Act (ACA) for 2018 ended on December 15th. This date may differ in some states (see HealthCare.gov to see what your state requires), but for HealthCare.gov enrollment, you may have to pay a penalty if you missed the deadline for purchasing coverage.
You Missed Open Enrollment. Now What?
There are a few options in the event you failed to meet the ACA enrollment deadline.
1. Pay the penalty.
If you can afford health insurance but fail to buy it, you may have to pay a penalty, called the individual shared responsibility fee or individual mandate. This has been $695 per adult and $347.50 per child in the past but an increase is expected. You pay this fee when you file your 2017 federal tax return. There are some exemptions, however. HealthCare.gov features a tool for figuring out if an exemption applies to you and provides the forms you need to apply.
2. Get short-term health insurance.
Although a short-term policy doesn’t protect you from the ACA individual mandate, it can provide peace of mind. Short-term policies provide coverage for up to three months, which can help because a three-month grace period goes into affect after your other qualifying insurance ends. Unfortunately, because this kind of policy is not ACA-compliant, they don’t include coverage for pre-existing conditions.
3. Apply during the special enrollment period.
The special enrollment period (SEP) begins when open enrollment ends and generally lasts for three months. For SEP you have to have experienced a qualifying event, such as losing employer-provided coverage or insurance you purchased on your own, losing COBRA insurance, getting married and other life-changers. For a more comprehensive discussion, see our article about the Special Enrollment Period.
4. Consider Medicaid or CHIP.
State-run programs, Medicaid and CHIP are free or low-cost healthcare plans for qualifying individuals and families. They do not have open enrollment periods. Qualifications are based on income level, if you’re an elderly person and if you’re pregnant. Call your state’s Medicaid agency or check with your state exchange to see if you qualify.
For more information about health insurance visit the EInsurance health insurance web page.