Miss the open enrollment deadline? How to get covered in 2019
Options for signing up in 2019
Did you miss the deadline to sign up for coverage on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces? Open enrollment ended on Dec. 15, but even if you missed it, you still may be able to sign up for health insurance in 2019.
But first — do you need to sign up for coverage? Beginning this year, the penalty associated with Obamacare’s individual mandate drops to $0. In other words, unlike previous years, there is no tax penalty for failing to carry health insurance.
Enrollment is down about 4 percent this year, and many think some consumers have decided to skip coverage now that there is no penalty for doing so. However, health insurance has value outside of avoiding the penalty — namely, offsetting costs you may face if you experience an accident or injury in 2019.
A new ACA lawsuit may also have some consumers concerned about their insurance next year. Below, we’ll look at what you need to know about Obamacare coverage in 2019, and two alternative options if you missed the open enrollment deadline.
If you did not sign up for ACA coverage before the open enrollment deadline, you won’t be able to sign up without experiencing a qualifying event. These are life changes that necessitate new insurance needs, like getting married, moving or having a baby.
To see if you qualify to sign up for coverage outside of open enrollment, visit www.healthcare.gov.
Consumers who did sign up for an Obamacare plan may have heard that the ACA is subject to a new lawsuit, and may be concerned about their coverage in 2019.
A Texas judge ruled in December that because the individual mandate penalty is now $0, the rest of the law is unconstitutional and should be overturned. However, this case is expected to be appealed. While it is not clear what the legal outcome of this case will be yet, it is not expected to affect consumers’ coverage in the short-term.
Plans outside the ACA
If you did miss the deadline but still want insurance coverage, the good news is that Obamacare plans aren’t your only option. In Tennessee, some consumers have access to Farm Bureau Health Plans, which you can sign up for at any time throughout the year. If you missed the open enrollment deadline but still want to sign up for a comprehensive health plan, this is probably the best place to start.
These plans are typically cheaper than ACA plans, too, though there are no federal subsidies available to offset Farm Bureau premiums.
Prior to 2019, consumers who elected these plans also had to pay the tax penalty, because these plans are sold outside of the ACA. But now, there is no financial disincentive to choose Farm Bureau, and many consumers can see significant cost-savings through these plans.
If you signed up for an ACA plan, but think you might save money with Farm Bureau, you can switch at any time this year. However, Farm Bureau can deny consumers with pre-existing conditions, which means these plans aren’t available to everyone. Be sure to apply for Farm Bureau first and see if you are eligible. If you drop your ACA coverage, you won’t be able to sign back up without a qualifying event. You can compare options and apply to see if you are eligible for a Farm Bureau plan at www.fbhealthplans.com.
There’s another option that might be right for some consumers — short-term plans. These are not considered “comprehensive” health plans, because depending on the particular plan, they may or may not cover basic care or prescriptions. They also typically do not cover any care associated with pre-existing conditions.
However, they may cover some costs if you experience a really expensive health care event, like a hospitalization. If you are in between other types of coverage, these can be a good option in the short-term. If you don’t have access to other types of insurance, this may also be a good choice — some insurance may be better than none. You can compare short-term plans on www.ehealthinsurance.com/.
The takeaway for consumers is that missing open enrollment doesn’t mean you have to stay uninsured next year. Be sure to consider alternative options if you are still looking for coverage.
This column was originally published in the The Tennessean.
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