In a previous post, we talked about the penalty associated with being uninsured following the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The only way to avoid this tax penalty is to either be insured (through your employer, Medicare, etc.) or to sign up for insurance during open enrollment. The open enrollment period for getting covered via the marketplace in 2015 began on November 15, 2014 and ends very soon on February 15, 2015. We have put together a list of a few important things to keep in mind about open enrollment through the insurance marketplace (also known as the exchange):
1. If you haven’t yet renewed your coverage by now, it has already ended
If you purchased your plan through Covered California, that plan technically ended on 12/31/14. All marketplace plans will renew automatically, but the prices may have changed and you may be required to update your income or other information. To avoid the potential for any insurmountable medical bills, make sure your plan is up to date.
But don’t worry, even if you have waited until now to check your plan status and even if you were uninsured at the beginning of 2015, you won’t incur the tax penalty associated with being uninsured as long as you meet that February 15 deadline.
2. When you complete enrollment, your plan may not begin right away
Buying a plan from the exchange by February 15 will make it so you don’t have to pay that tax penalty. However, that doesn’t mean you will be considered insured by any medical provider on the date you buy the plan. Most plans begin on the first of the month after you sign up. So, enrolling by February 15 means your coverage will most likely start as early as March 1st.
If you have already auto-enrolled or if you enrolled before the end of 2014, you have had uninterrupted coverage going in to 2015, but if you decide to make a provider change or other change to your plan, keep in mind that those changes will also take time to take effect.
3. If your plan automatically renewed, you may still want or need to take action during open enrollment
Automatic enrollment for marketplace plans is a very convenient way to make sure you stay consistently covered. However this doesn’t mean that you don’t have anything to do during open enrollment.
Automatic enrollment assumes that nothing has changed since you signed up in 2014. A year can bring a lot of change, and some of that change could affect coverage and premium tax credits (if applicable). Some of these changes include:
- Changes to income.
- An offer of job-based coverage to anyone in your household, even if they don’t enroll in it.
- Any changes to your household, such as birth, adoption, divorce, separation, death, placing a child up for adoption or foster care, a child on your policy turning 26, or a dependent changing status so they’re no longer your dependent.
- Someone in your household getting coverage from a public program like Medicaid, CHIP, or Medicare.
- Change of your permanent home address.
Not reporting changes like these can limit the plan choices you see and the savings you qualify for. In the case of the premium tax credit, you could potentially receive too much or too little credit if you don’t report changes to your annual income. A new address may also put you outside of your current plan’s coverage area. Make sure to make these changes to your plan during open enrollment.
4. Open enrollment also means you can change an existing plan
Open enrollment allows you to not only change parts of your current plan, but you can also change your insurance provider altogether!
The insurance marketplace was designed to make insurance providers compete for your business. Give them a chance to do so! Browse around during this open enrollment period to see if there’s a plan that better suits you or your family’s needs and perhaps for less money than you paid last year.
Even if your plan was automatically renewed, you can still change your provider. Keep in mind that the deadline for changing your plan, auto-enrolled or not, is still February 15.
As you consider changing your insurance plan, keep Meritage Medical Network in mind. We’re a select group of over 700 private practice physicians located throughout Marin, Napa, and Sonoma Counties. To make sure you have access to care from Meritage, select coverage with any of the following insurance providers:
- Blue Cross of California
- Anthem Blue Cross
- Health Net
- SCAN Health Plan
- Western Health Advantage
Once you have chosen a plan that includes Meritage Medical Network, you can visit our home page and use our “find a doctor” feature to find a health care specialist near you. We look forward to providing you with exceptional care.
If you still have questions about including Meritage Medical Network in your insurance plan or would like to speak to someone at Meritage directly, please call 415-884-1840 or email member services: firstname.lastname@example.org