The ObamaCare open enrollment period for 2018 was cut short, but most Americans weren’t aware of that change.
According to a survey by eHealth, nearly half of respondents didn’t know the enrollment period ended on Dec. 15 this year, as opposed to the end of January.
Despite a high level of unawareness about the severely curtailed window, 8.8 million Americans still signed up for the exchanges during the specified enrollment timeframe.
But for those that missed the window, or found the Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans too expensive for their current financial circumstances, there are still some options available.
If you cannot afford an ACA plan or you missed the open enrollment deadline, a short-term plan could be for you. They provide less extensive, but also less expensive coverage than the ACA alternative.
“They’re very significantly more affordable,” Scott Flanders, eHealth (NASDAQ:EHTH) CEO told FOX Business, adding that for an individual they can cost around $100 per month, or $250 for the average family.
These short-term limited duration insurance (STLDI) offerings, which cost one-third of the price of the cheapest ObamaCare plans, feature broad provider networks and coverage. These plans are also not subject to most ObamaCare requirements.
“We think short term is very good and appropriate alternative … When people don’t buy the ACA plan [because] they just can’t afford the premiums, they don’t qualify for [an] adequate subsidy, yet they still know they need to protect themselves and their families.”
These plans, however, don’t cover things like preventive care or pre-existing conditions.
A short-term plan will provide coverage for about 90 days currently, though President Donald Trump directed his administration to look into expanding short-term limited duration insurance plans via an executive order signed in October. These policies were primarily intended for people between jobs under ObamaCare, but the new administration wants them to be available to people in counties with scarce exchange offerings and to those who miss the open enrollment period.
Qualifying life events
If you missed the open enrollment deadline, there is a chance you could still be able to enroll for coverage if you qualify for a life event.
There are a lot of reasons an individual could fall under this category: losing a job, moving to a new coverage area, if your insurer leaves your regional market, marriage, having a child, etc.
Generally the biggest qualifier, according to Flanders, is a loss of health insurance for you or one of your dependents.
So if you missed the deadline, but would still like full coverage on the ACA exchanges, be sure to check whether a change in your situation might make you eligible for the “Special Enrollment Period” associated with qualifying life events. It is important to note that you only have a 60-day window after the change in circumstance to apply, Flanders said.
Health care practices, like eHealth, have created another option for individuals searching for more comprehensive coverage than a short-term plan, but more affordability than an ACA offering. These are known as benefits packages, and they are available all year and typically cost about half the price of an ObamaCare plan.
These plans don’t have guaranteed issue and don’t exempt you from the mandate, but generally provide hospital coverage, doctor coverage and are underwritten by grade-A insurance companies, Flanders said.