The Affordable Care Act revolutionized the way we purchase health insurance. Now individuals can shop for their own health care plans on the statewide exchange (Covered California). But for people who haven’t had health insurance in the past, or who relied upon employer-provided coverage, the process can still be a bit confusing. To help you out, we’re providing answers to some of the most common questions about health insurance enrollment.
I enrolled in a health insurance plan last year. What do I need to do this fall? During each Open Enrollment period, you have a chance to reevaluate your plan and compare it to others. If you anticipate a change in circumstances next year – for example, you’re planning a pregnancy – this is the time to make sure your current policy still suits your needs. Also, update your financial information in the system, so that your subsidy (if you receive one) is calculated correctly.
The Covered California system was a mess last year. How can I receive better service during Open Enrollment this fall? For the first year or so after the Affordable Care Act went into effect, every state exchange reported some problems. This is to be expected any time a major government system is implemented! The good news is that the Covered California website and processing systems have adjusted to demand now. If you would prefer more personalized assistance, you can work directly with a health insurance broker who will guide you through the process.
I like my current plan. Do I have to do anything this fall? Your health insurance plan and subsidy will most likely renew itself automatically if you don’t want to make any changes. But you should still log into the system and update your financial information. In some cases, your subsidy might be recalculated. You don’t want to risk an overpayment.
I still haven’t purchased health insurance. Do I have to? Remember that the Individual Mandate, included in the Affordable Care Act, requires most people to purchase health insurance. So far the penalties have been small, but are set to increase each year. If you fail to enroll in a health insurance plan for the 2016 calendar year, you will pay the greater of 2.5 percent of your annual income, or $695.00 per adult and $347.50 per child in your household. When Open Enrollment begins November 15, log into the Covered California website and start your application. Otherwise you might face a stiff penalty on your 2016 tax return.