Did you purchase health coverage through your state’s health insurance exchange last year? If not, are you still uninsured? If you answered yes to either question, you may benefit from these tips about choosing health insurance during this year’s Affordable Care Act—aka Obamacare—open enrollment period.
1. For 2020 health plans, open enrollment runs until December 15 in most states—but not all of them.
You can enroll in a new marketplace plan—or change your existing plan—until December 15, 2019 in most states. Currently, the following states have extended open enrollment deadlines:
- California: January 15, 2020 (permanent extension)
- Colorado: January 15, 2020 (permanent extension)
- District of Columbia: January 31, 2020 (permanent extension)
- Idaho: December 16, 2019
- Massachusetts: January 23, 2020
- Minnesota: December 23, 2019
- New York: January 31, 2020
- Rhode Island: December 31, 2019
No matter where you live, if want or need new coverage beginning January 1, 2020, you should sign up by the end of the day on December 15.
For more information, see Your State’s Open Enrollment Deadline for 2020 Health Plans.
2. Automatic re-enrollment isn’t as good as it sounds.
If you purchased an individual or family plan through the marketplace last year and you do nothing this year, you’ll be automatically re-enrolled in your current plan for 2020—as long as the plan is still available. Auto enrollment sounds handy, but it could lead to unpleasant surprises: your monthly premium may change, your eligibility for subsidies may fall out of date. In some cases, you may even be automatically enrolled in a different plan if your insurer stops offering your existing coverage.
Recently, CNBC Make It published a survey showing that only 15% of Americans plan to change up their health insurance this year. They concluded that number should probably be higher, and we agree.
Be proactive during this open enrollment period. Visit your health insurance exchange to learn about your options when choosing health insurance for 2020. (If you get your insurance through your job, sit down with the plans your employer offers learn the details.) Update any personal or income information that’s changed during the year, then make an informed choice about your coverage.
3. Neglecting to update income information could be an expensive mistake.
As you probably know by now, the Affordable Care Act provides subsidies that lower monthly health insurance premiums for many people. But for financial assistance to work properly, you must re-evaluate it each year. If your income changes, your subsidy amount may rise or fall.
If you don’t report correct income information, you may not get the financial aid for which you qualify. On the flip side, if you’ve claimed too much assistance, you may have to pay the IRS back at tax time.
You don’t have to wait until open enrollment to report income changes; you’re supposed to update important information throughout the year. But open enrollment is a good time to double check your personal information and update your data if necessary.
4. There’s no more federal tax penalty for going without health insurance, but . . .
You probably already know that the federal tax penalty for being uninsured has gone away. That means that if you didn’t have health insurance coverage this year, you won’t have to pay a penalty when you file your federal taxes in 2020.
That said, a handful of states have passed their own health insurance requirements. You may face a state tax penalty if you are uninsured in one of these states.
And even though there’s no more federal tax penalty, ask yourself whether it really makes sense to forego health insurance. A medical crisis could do more damage than a penalty ever would. (A study published earlier this year showed that a lapse in health insurance coverage can double a person’s chances of ending up in bankruptcy.) And if you miss open enrollment and find yourself needing coverage mid-year, you’ll probably have to wait until 2021 to get it.
For more information on health insurance requirements and exemptions in your state, see Do You Have to Get Obamacare?
5. You can get help choosing health insurance and filling out your application.
There are many resources available to help you choose a health insurance plan and complete your application. You can get free help from a trained support specialist online, over the phone, or in person. For details, see Get Help Finding an Insurance Plain in Your State.
If you want one-on-one assistance from a trained professional who can recommend a health insurance plan based on your individual circumstances, you can contact an insurance agent or broker. (Unlike government funded assistants, brokers are legally permitted to suggest individual plans that may meet your needs.) For more, see How An Insurance Agent or Broker Can Help You Sign Up for Obamacare or call 1-800-943-6832 to speak with a broker directly. (Note that we receive advertising income from the brokers who provide services through this phone number, all of whom supply insurance plans that meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act.)