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Health care sign-up ends: What’s next?



Published: Thu, December 26, 2013 @ 12:04 a.m.

Associated Press

CHICAGO

The deadline has passed, and so too the surprise grace period, for signing up for health insurance as part of the nation’s health care law.

Now what?

For those who were able to navigate the glitch-prone and often overwhelmed HealthCare.gov website, there’s still work to be done to make sure success online leads to actual coverage come the new year.

The first step experts recommend is to call your insurance company and double-check that they received your payment.

What if you missed the Christmas Eve deadline and still want insurance in 2014, as the health law requires of most Americans? You may be without health insurance for a month, but you can still sign up for coverage that will start in February.

“Be patient, because they’re trying to help you,” said Tina Stewart, a 25-year-old graduate student in Salt Lake City who succeeded in enrolling in a health plan Tuesday morning. “It will take time.”

The historic changes made by the Affordable Care Act take full effect on Jan. 1. People with chronic health conditions can no longer be denied health insurance. Those who get sick and start piling up medical bills will no longer lose their coverage. Out-of-pocket limits arrive that are designed to protect patients from going bankrupt.

But unless the 1 million Americans who have so far enrolled for coverage via the new marketplaces make sure their applications have arrived at their new insurance companies without errors, some may find they’re still uninsured when they try to refill a prescription or make a doctor’s appointment.

“The enrollment files have been getting better and more accurate, but there is still work that needs to be done,” said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group that represents the private insurance industry. “The health plans are still having to go back and fix some of data errors coming through in these files.”

If everything went smoothly, consumers can expect to see a welcome packet arrive in the mail from their insurance company, Zirkelbach said. If not, a phone call to the insurer might clear things up.

“If a consumer signed up yesterday, they shouldn’t expect the health plan to have their enrollment application today,” Zirkelbach said. “Allow a couple of days to receive and process those enrollments.”

Paying the first premium is crucial. Because of the changing deadlines for enrollment, most insurers have agreed to allow payments through Jan. 10 and will make coverage retroactive to Jan. 1, he said.

Anyone who missed the Christmas Eve deadline to enroll for insurance to start in January can still apply at HealthCare.gov for coverage to begin later. The federal website serves 36 states, but also directs people elsewhere to the online insurance site serving their state. The site also offers directions to local agencies offering in-person help.

After the disastrous rollout in October, the federal website received 2 million visits on Monday, and heavy — but not as heavy — traffic on Tuesday. White House spokeswoman Tara McGuinness said she had no immediate estimate of visitors Tuesday or how many succeeded in obtaining insurance before the midnight Christmas Eve deadline. The unexpected one-day grace period was just the latest in a string of delays and reversals.

Finally, note the next significant deadline isn’t for a few more months. If you don’t have coverage by March 31, you’ll pay a tax penalty next year of $95 or 1 percent of your income, whichever is higher.

Ron Pollack, president of Families USA, a liberal advocacy group that has led efforts to get uninsured people signed up for coverage next year, said that’s the deadline that matters most.

“The real significant deadline is March 31,” Pollack said. “The enrollment period extends for another three months.”


Comments

1ytownsteelman(618 comments)posted 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Please, if you are an Obama voter do not complain about Obamacare. This is what you wanted!

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2southsidedave(4709 comments)posted 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Obamacare will not solve the healthcare crisis in America...time will tell

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376Ytown(1152 comments)posted 3 months, 3 weeks ago

There are many deadlines to Obamacare and each deadline has a different meaning. Annual open enrollment, special open enrollment, payment due date, and termination in coverage each have separate dates.

* Annual open enrollment ends March 31.

* $95 tax penalty for in 2014 if no insurance by March 31.

*Jan 10 premium due date for coverage to become effective Jan 1.

* Premiums received after Jan 10 will be for Feb 1 effective date.

* 90 day payment grace period once coverage has been elected

* Elect coverage on Mar 31, 90 days to pay premium.

* Once enrolled, the insurer must pay incurred claims during the first 30 days regardless of payment. (30 day free ride)

* Payers are not required to pay for claims incurred during the last 60 days of the 90-day period if premiums not paid.

* If you pay the 1st payment then stop paying, the insurer cannot drop you for 90 days.

* If payment is not made in the 1st 30 days, the effective date is pushed ahead to the next month.

* If payment is not made after 90 days, coverage will not go into effect. (except first 30 days free ride)

* Next open enrollment will be Nov 15 - Dec 7 for 2015. (Originally Oct 15 but delayed for fear of sticker shock prior to elections).

* If you miss the open enrollment period, you can enroll during a special 60 day enrollment period.for qualified events as follows:

You become unemployed/layoff or you experience reduction in the number of hours of work
Change in income
Change in Marriage Status (Marriage / Divorce)
Change in Dependents (Birth of new baby, adoption)
You moved to a new state that has different insurance coverage
Basically any life-changing events

I have to laugh at the last one...that fits the "make the rules as we go" provision of Obamacare!

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