What to do if you missed the deadline to get health insurance

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What to do if you missed the deadline to get health insurance

Open enrollment for 2019 health coverage through Healthcare.gov ended Saturday. But there are still ways to get health insurance for 2019 if you missed the deadline.

Side note: You may have heard that a judge in Texas ruled Obamacare unconstitutional. The decision won't impact current coverage or 2019 plans, said Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The ruling is likely to be appealed.

You may still be able to sign up for comprehensive health insurance for 2019, depending on your situation. Here are some of the most common options.

State exchanges

Enrollment on the federal health care exchanges ended Saturday, but health insurance marketplaces remain open in some states that run their own exchanges. People can still buy health insurance in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C. Check our state-by-state guide to open enrollment for exact deadlines.

Special enrollment

Some people may qualify for a special enrollment period to sign up for health insurance. Certain life events, like losing health coverage, moving, or getting married, can trigger a special enrollment period, which lasts up to 60 days. Life changes that qualify for a special enrollment period generally fall into three categories: changes in household, changes in residence or losing health insurance.

Qualifying changes in household can include:

• Getting married
• Having a baby or adopting a child
• Getting divorced or legally separated and losing health insurance
• 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

Medicaid is a federal and state health insurance program for low-income people. You can apply to Medicaid any time of year. States set their own standards for eligibility. They're mostly based on income, disability, pregnancy, age, household size and household role.

Thirty-six states, as well as the District of Columbia, have expanded Medicaid to cover all their residents making less than 133% of the poverty line. To see the requirements where you live, check our state-by-state guide to Medicaid.

Health insurance alternatives

If none of these routes are available, there are alternative health care options to explore.

They include off-exchange plans. These policies cover the same benefits as Obamacare plans, but aren't eligible for subsidies. Some private insurers sell off-exchange plans all year.

Short-term health plans cost less than marketplace plans, but offer less robust coverage. They may not cover pre-existing conditions or may cap coverage for certain services, like hospital stays. If you're considering a short-term health plan, be sure to ask these questions. (You can compare and shop for short-term health plans with our partner Agile Health.)

Health care sharing ministries are a faith-based alternative to traditional health insurance. Participants pay a monthly "sharing amount" similar to a premium.

Health care sharing ministries aren't subject to Obamacare rules. They set their own guidelines for members. They can require members to adhere to certain behaviors, like abstaining from tobacco and drugs or attending group worship.

Skipping health insurance

Starting in 2019, there is no penalty for going without health insurance. But paying for a medical emergency out-of-pocket could be much costlier than the price of health insurance. Medical bills are a leading cause of financial problems, so weigh your risks carefully.

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