It’s pretty clear that the Obama administration doesn’t mind extending Obamacare’s statutory deadlines. But, as far as enrolling in the health insurance exchanges, there are actually some deadlines people should be aware of. While the federal health law does prohibit insurers from denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions, that doesn’t mean that people can simply sign up for coverage after they get sick or suffer from a catastrophic event on any given day. It can only be done within the insurance exchange’s enrollment period (October 1, 2013 – March 31, 2014). Otherwise, they will have to wait until next year’s health insurance enrollment period. Enrollment periods in following years will be shorter than the current 6-month time frame.
However, special enrollment periods do exist under any of these qualifying life events as defined by the law:
With the Affordable Care Act, a few new life events will qualify people for special enrollment periods, if they’re purchasing their insurance through the marketplace:
1. Gaining, losing, or changing coverage due to government error
2. Increasing or decreasing your income enough that your subsidy eligibility changes
3. Moving to a new coverage area
It’s important to note that simply becoming sick is not enough to qualify as a life event. If you fall and break a leg, you won’t be able to upgrade your Bronze plan to Platinum, so that your out of pocket costs are less. If, however, your broken leg keeps you from working, and therefore your income decreases, or you have to take a leave of absence from work, it’s possible you’ll be able to make some changes, or qualify for additional subsidies. In that case, you would want to contact your state’s marketplace, or insurance agent/broker, to see what you might be eligible for.