Nora Rhoades, Family & Youth Development Agent
If you haven’t already, it’s time to review your health insurance options, as annual open enrollment in the Kansas Health Insurance Marketplace (https://www.healthcare.gov) for 2016 coverage begins Nov. 1. Many employers and some public programs, such as Medicare, also use the fall as a time for annual enrollment or the renewal of health insurance plans.
Marketplace enrollment continues through Jan. 31, 2016. The last day to enroll in or change plans for new coverage to start Jan. 1, 2016, is Dec. 15. The last day to enroll in or change plans for new coverage to start Feb. 1, 2016, is Jan. 15. If you wait to enroll by Jan. 31, that coverage will take effect March 1, 2016.
While there are a few exceptions, the Affordable Care Act requires that you are insured for at least nine months out of every year, or you will have to pay a penalty at tax time for being uninsured.
Generally, you can only buy health insurance coverage during annual open enrollment periods. It is difficult to change coverage if you don’t experience a qualifying life event, so it’s best to take advantage of the open enrollment period. If you experience a qualifying life event (https://www.healthcare.gov/glossary/qualifying-life-event/), such as losing job coverage, getting married or having a child, you can change your health insurance outside of the open enrollment period in a special enrollment period.
Specifications for enrollment in health insurance coverage, by type of coverage, include:
· Insurance coverage through an employer: your employer determines the open enrollment dates. The dates vary from employer to employer. If you have a spouse, you will likely have two different open enrollment periods to keep track of each year. If you are not sure when your next job-based open enrollment period is, ask your employer.
· Insurance from the marketplace: the marketplace open enrollment period is Nov. 1, 2015 through Jan. 31, 2016.
· Insurance through Medicare: Medicare’s initial enrollment period is a seven-month window surrounding your 65th birthday, or for those under 65 and disabled, the seven months surrounding the 25th month of disability. Special enrollment periods for Medicare vary, and specific rules and timing can be found on the Medicare website (http://www.medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/11219.pdf). If a beneficiary has missed the initial enrollment period and is not eligible for a special enrollment period, the Medicare general enrollment period runs Jan. 1 to March 31 each year, with coverage beginning July 1 of that year.
· Insurance though KanCare: this is Kansas’ Medicaid program. Applications for KanCare can be submitted at any time.
Delays in enrollment and coverage, and penalties, may apply if the consumer does not enroll at the appropriate time. If obtaining insurance through the marketplace, log on to www.healthcare.gov. To learn more about how to enroll in the marketplace or KanCare, call the marketplace, available 24/7, at 800-318-2596. The Kansas Health Institute also has resources on its website (http://www.khi.org/).