Reminder: It's almost deadline day for health insurance

by Myles Ma
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Reminder: It's almost deadline day for health insurance

Update, Dec. 17, 2019: People who want to sign up for health insurance on the federal exchanges now have until 3 a.m. Wednesday. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services extended the deadline to accommodate people who experienced glitches and call center delays on Sunday.


Open enrollment for a 2020 health insurance plan on Healthcare.gov ends Sunday. Through Nov. 30, 2.88 million people had selected plans on the online platform, down from 3.2 million who signed up over a similar period last year.

Signups are lower, even though the average cost for a plan on the marketplace is dropping in many states for the first time and there are more carriers and plans in many areas.

One reason enrollment could be sluggish is that many people don't understand what they're buying. Health care literacy is low.

A recent Policygenius survey found one in four people had avoided care because they were uncertain about what their plans covered. In addition, only 21% of respondents could correctly name the dates for open enrollment on Healthcare.gov (Nov. 1 through Dec. 15).

If you're still looking for a plan, read our state-by-state guide to open enrollment for advice on finding a 2020 health care plan.

What if you miss the deadline?

First of all, try not to miss the deadline! If you're reading this post when it publishes on Wednesday, you have plenty of time to find an affordable plan, especially since 87% of Healthcare.gov shoppers received a tax credit to help pay for premiums.

Even if you miss the Dec. 15 deadline, depending on where you live, you may be able to sign up for a 2020 plan. Residents of California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York and Washington, D.C., can sign up for plans beyond Dec. 15.

Special enrollment

Certain life events may allow you to sign up for health insurance outside of open enrollment. Losing health coverage, getting married or having a child are among the life events that can trigger a special enrollment period that lasts up to 60 days.

The changes that qualify for a special enrollment period generally fall into three categories: changes in household, changes in residence or loss of health insurance.

Qualifying changes in household can include:

  • Getting married
  • Having a baby or adopting a child
  • Getting divorced or legally separated
  • Having someone in your household die

Qualifying changes in residence can include:

  • Moving to a new home in a new ZIP code or county
  • Moving to the U.S. from a foreign country
  • If you're a student, moving to or from the place you attend school
  • If you're a seasonal worker, moving to or from the place you live and work
  • Moving to or from a shelter or transitional housing

Qualifying losses of health coverage include:

  • Losing job-based coverage
  • Losing individual health coverage
  • Losing eligibility for Medicaid or CHIP
  • Losing eligibility for Medicare
  • Losing coverage through a family member

Medicaid

Certain low-income people can qualify for Medicaid. You can apply year-round.

Every state has its own standards for eligibility, based on income, disability status, pregnancy, age, household size and household role. In 36 states, plus Washington, D.C., Medicaid covers all residents with an income below 138% of the federal poverty level.

Read our state-by-state guide to Medicaid to learn about eligibility in your state.

Other options

You can also shop for off-exchange health insurance plans. They are subject to the same coverage requirements as Obamacare plans, but aren't eligible for subsidies. Some plans are available to purchase year-round. Policygenius can help you compare off-exchange plans in your area, in addition to those on the Obamacare exchange.

Short-term health plans are available year-round. They cost less than traditional health insurance, but offer less robust coverage and may not cover pre-existing conditions. (You can shop for short-term health plans with our partner Agile Health.)

Health care sharing ministries are a faith-based health coverage option. Members pay a monthly "sharing amount" similar to a premium and must typically adhere to certain behaviors, like abstaining from drugs or attending group worship.

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