Your checklist for the 2016 healthcare open enrollment period

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Your checklist for the 2016 healthcare open enrollment period

The 2016 healthcare open enrollment period is almost upon us, and hopefully the third time's a charm.

This year it's been shifted by a month and runs from November 1st, 2015 to January 31st, 2016. As with last year, it's a mixed bag of updates. Some states have stepped up their game, while some insurers have stepped up their premiums. And the minimum tax penalty for not having insurance in 2016 is doubling to $695 per person. Fortunately we've published a detailed breakdown of what's new this year if you want to know what to expect on your state's exchange.

Here's our guide to what you need to do if this is your second or third time on the marketplace. (If this is your first time, head over to our getting started checklist for first time shoppers instead.)

Remember, if you do end up going back to the marketplace to shop, you can refer to our guide on how to choose the perfect health insurance plan to make the process easier.

For returning customers

  1. Determine whether you need to update your marketplace information.

Has your situation changed since last year? Then go back to the marketplace and adjust your information so that you have the accurate subsidy amount for your 2016 premium. Then shop again for a policy, even if this means you have to purchase the same one you currently have. You can use this subsidy calculator from the Kaiser Family Foundation to quickly check your subsidy status before you visit the exchange.

If your situation hasn't changed, then...

  1. Decide whether you want to shop for a new policy anyway.

If nothing's changed but for whatever reason you no longer want your current policy―maybe you're dissatisfied with the provider network, or you've discovered that the policy doesn't cover a particular drug*―you can shop for a new plan the same as you did last year.

(*One of the changes this year is that all insurers on the marketplace are required to offer an easily accessible formulary, which is the full list of drugs they cover.)

If you don't have to update anything and you don't want to change policies, then...

  1. Don't do anything for now, but watch your mail for a notice that your plan is changing.

If you're already covered under a plan you bought in 2015 or 2014, it will auto-renew. But if anything about the plan is changing--including if the premium is going up--then you will receive a notice via snail mail. If you don't like the changes and want to shop for a replacement plan, go back to the marketplace. There's no penalty for switching from your current plan to a new one.

Although open enrollment lasts until January 31st of 2016, remember that you have to buy a policy by the 15th of the month for it to go into effect the next month. That means if you buy a new policy and you want the coverage to start on January 1st, you have to buy it by December 15th.

Photo credit: Taki Steve