In response to widespread unemployment and the associated loss of health insurance benefits, President Biden opened the health insurance marketplaces on February 15. Until May 15, anyone who needs a health insurance plan for any reason can enroll. Normally, enrollment is only open in the fall, and individuals or families must experience certain qualifying life events in order to gain access to a special enrollment period.
During this time, you can enroll in an ACA-qualified health insurance plan, possibly with a tax credit or subsidy to help cover the cost of your premiums. Here’s what you need to know about this enrollment period.
You can decide between a tax credit or a subsidy. If you qualify for a subsidy, it reduces the cost of your monthly premiums. However, because these subsidies are based upon your income, regaining employment or a significant boost of income later in the year could render you ineligible. You might end up owing some of the subsidy back to the government. If you suspect that might be the case for you, opting for the tax credit instead might be a good idea.
Consider premiums versus out-of-pocket expenses. Lower-premium plans look more affordable on the surface, but come with higher out-of-pocket expenses such as the deductible. These can be acceptable plans for those who seldom utilize healthcare services, but can become expensive for those who are likely to seek more care. As you weigh your options, consider how likely you are to incur out-of-pocket expenses, and whether a higher-premium plan might help you better manage your budget.
Consider whether a short-term plan is best for your situation. Short-term healthcare plans can bridge the gap when you’re temporarily unemployed, retire a few months before Medicare eligibility, and in certain other temporary situations. If you expect your employment or insurance options to change drastically in the near future, this could be an option for you.
Consider your COBRA options. Typically, staying on your employer’s plan via COBRA can be expensive, since the laid-off worker must pay for the entire cost of premiums. But if you’ve already reached your deductible for the year, it could be a wise choice. Also, the American Rescue Plan provides coverage for COBRA premiums until September 30, making this a viable option for many.
It’s free to consult with a health insurance broker. Premiums are the same whether you consult a health insurance broker or not, so you might as well take advantage of their expertise. Give us a call to discuss your health insurance needs at this time, and we can help you learn more about the options available to you.