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Obamacare enrollment ends March 31

If you haven't enrolled by the end of this month, it could be a long wait until the next enrollment period.

By QuinStreet Mar 3, 2014 2:03PM

This post comes from Barbara Marquand at partner site on MSN MoneyIf you've been putting off shopping for health insurance for 2014, beware that you'll miss your chance if you wait too long.

Doctor sitting in office with patient talking and smiling © Paul Bradbury, OJO Images, Getty ImagesOpen enrollment -- the time when you can purchase an individual or individual family health plan for this year -- will end March 31. This open enrollment period does not apply to people who buy their health insurance through work; your employer will still hold its own open enrollment period, usually in the fall.

For those seeking individual plans, if you haven't bought a health plan by end of the day on March 31, then you'll have to wait until the next open enrollment period, unless you have a special circumstance, such as losing coverage at work or having a baby, and qualify for "special enrollment."

The open enrollment for 2015 health plans is set to run from Nov. 15, 2014, through Jan. 15, 2015.

You can enroll in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program, state and federal insurance programs for low-income families, at any time during the year -- but only if your income is low enough to qualify.

Although a limited open enrollment period is customary for people covered by Medicare and for employees enrolling in health plans at work, it's a new concept for the individual health insurance market.

A new way of doing things

Before this year, you could shop for an individual health plan at any time. But starting with 2014 health plans you're limited to purchasing coverage during the open enrollment period, which began Oct. 1, 2013.

"We caution consumers that it may take a while to get through the enrollment process, so they should start it as soon as they can," says Cheryl Fish-Parcham, deputy director of health policy at Families USA, a health care advocacy group.

Through March 31, you can buy a health plan directly from an insurance company, health insurance agent, insurance website or through the government-run marketplace in your state. If you qualify for tax credits or cost-saving subsidies to make coverage more affordable, you must enroll through the government-run marketplace to get them.

Health policy experts expect a rush to buy coverage as the open enrollment deadline nears, much as there was a surge at the end of December to buy coverage to begin Jan. 1.

"As there is tremendous media attention on that date, we'll see a similar phenomenon in March," says Sara Collins, vice president for health care coverage and access at the Commonwealth Fund, a foundation that supports an improved health care system.

A Commonwealth Fund survey conducted in December 2013 found that 59 percent of people potentially eligible for coverage who had not yet enrolled in health insurance said they were likely to try to enroll in a plan or find out if they were eligible for financial help by the end of March.

What's the deal with open enrollment?

It's no coincidence that an open enrollment period was introduced as part of the Affordable Care Act. Starting this year, individual health plans must cover a set of standard benefits, and insurers cannot deny coverage or charge higher premiums for people with health conditions. The Affordable Care Act also requires almost everyone to have insurance this year.

A time period for enrollment was set to prevent people from waiting until they got sick to buy coverage, Collins says. Health insurers need a large pool of people -- not just those with illnesses - to buy coverage in order to spread risk and keep premiums low.

If you miss the March 31 deadline to purchase coverage for 2014, you could get another chance to enroll if you have a special circumstance, known as a "qualifying life event." In most cases you have 60 days after the event to enroll.

Those events include:

  • Getting married
  • Having or adopting a child
  • Permanently moving to a new area that offers different health plans
  • Losing other health coverage because of job loss, divorce, loss of eligibility for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program, expiration of COBRA coverage or decertification of a health plan. (A plan is decertified if it no longer meets federal and state standards for health plans.) Losing coverage because you didn't pay the premiums does not qualify you for special enrollment.
  • A change in your household that affects eligibility for tax credits or cost-sharing subsidies, if you're already enrolled in a marketplace plan.

There will be a few plans available between March and November. Some insurers will still offer short-term and temporary health plans.

This year's open enrollment period was purposely set longer to give the marketplaces, insurers and the public time to come to terms with the new rules.

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The Obamacare analogy goes something like this:  There is a boat in the middle of lake Michigan filled with people.  In this boat is a small leak, not big, but enough to cause a slight concern yet still manageable.  Obama comes along and says, "I can fix that leak with my water-letter-outer", "wow", say the people, "ok, have at it".  So Obama takes his water-letter-outer, which looks very similar to an old-time, non-electric, hand drill and starts drilling holes in the bottom of the boat in an attempt to let out the small amount of water.  Unbeknownst to him he caused more water to enter the boat, but being blind to his own ignorance and arrogance he starts drilling more holes thinking that will fix the problem not realizing that HE IS THE PROBLEM.  The boat eventually sinks, and all drown.
Mar 3, 2014 2:26PM
In November, remember who is responsible for Obamacare, and VOTE against EVERY DEMOCRAT on the ballot.   Only by firing these arrogant, lying SOB's can we possibly get rid of this new welfare program.

Send the democrats to the unemployment line BEFORE they send you there...
Mar 3, 2014 2:22PM

Remember "If you like your Dr., you can keep your Dr.    Period!


Isn't anyone tired of all of the lies yet?

REMEMBER BENGHAZI 2014 & 2016!!!

Mar 3, 2014 2:19PM

Hmm... This article sounds like nothing more than a desperate bid (ploy) to get more people to enroll in the fiasco that is Obamacare.

Where are the over-blown (highly exaggerated) enrollment numbers and statistics? Oh wait, those were all bulls**t!!! Much like Obamacare and its namesake...

Mar 3, 2014 2:25PM
Don't complain Amerika. This is just one of the disasters that you get when you voted for this community organizer.
Mar 3, 2014 2:23PM

I want to get an idea of how may signed up for this farce, and how many of those are actually PAYING for it.

Somehow I doubt we will ever get an honest answer for either.

Mar 3, 2014 2:57PM
Obama, Pelosi and Reed................the three stooges!
Mar 3, 2014 2:28PM
Call us in the next ten minutes, and we'll include a FREE dysfunctional liberal-Democrat-state-run Obamacare web-sight! (just pay separate denial and blame the Republicans propaganda fee). Hurry! This is a limited time offer! Act now, before it's too late!
Mar 3, 2014 3:06PM
How ironic…some people (myself included) will be paying NOT to have hospital insurance.That's what it is…hospital insurance,not "health" insurance. 

 Only in the USA..under  Obamanomics… do you have to pay for something you won't receive…so others can get it for free… God save the Republic!
Mar 3, 2014 3:00PM
What I want to know is this...Elder Americans are "signing up in droves."  Younger Americans are not.  Since Obama said that the only way for Obamacare to work is for the younger Americans to "sign up in droves," to offset the elder Americans, when does Obama pull the plug and admit that Obamacare is not working?  It is only going to cost many, many more dollars from the working/tax paying class come January 1, 2015.  What happens then?
Mar 3, 2014 2:49PM
we just need to have the law end and start over. I suggest starting with a new congress/senate.  you know they new type that actually listens to the people and not the idiot some call their president
Mar 3, 2014 3:52PM
I am one that lost my insurance because of Obamacare and had to go through the Minnesota website - I did not qualify for any help with premiums, but Minnesotas governor deemed any decent policy be on this site. Took me 90 hours to sign up and I now pay twice as much for 1/2 of my former insurance. Plus it is still screwed up. It is all geared to the young - Obama bought the votes of those that are young and dumb. Vote these welfare hogs out. Please.
Mar 3, 2014 2:25PM
obama  who??  care? cares about taking all of everything then slap your face when it's all gone
Mar 3, 2014 3:13PM
I think that obama realizes that he's already got all of the people that are stupid enough to sign up for his BS. The other 99 percent are too smart to fall for it.
There is no way that this guy won a fair election.
As a Republican, I have to admit that I couldn't vote for juan mccain. So I sat that one out.
But the choice between a closet socialist muslim with a failed record, and an American Mormon boy scout is a pretty easy choice. When it comes to crooked elections, America is a lot like Russia.

Im sure as hell going to wait, Its never going to work.
Mar 3, 2014 3:14PM
It will be interesting to see how lopped sided the Obamacare ends up. Expect fewer young American's paying the higher premiums to off set the large number of older American's receiving it. The money has to come from somewhere. Guess who will be footing the bill? Why we, the taxpayer, that's who. Just wait and see what happens.
Mar 3, 2014 2:31PM
Osammie thru a communist party and nobodies showing up, can he get his deposit back?
Mar 3, 2014 3:59PM
What makes America great is that you can be a spineless, worthless, freeloading parasite, who pisses on America and all that it stands for and still get a check from the government every month!

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