You’re all set with your new health insurance for 2019. (Nice work!) But what happens if you’re second-guessing your decision? Maybe you’ve learned your preferred healthcare provider isn’t in network or your deductible feels unaffordable.
Can you change health insurance after open enrollment?
Depending on your specific situation, if buyer’s remorse sets in, you may be able to:
- Change health insurance outside of open enrollment, or
- Apply for supplemental or alternative health insurance to help cover your unexpected medical expenses.
When can you switch health insurance plans?
During the annual open enrollment period
If you buy health insurance during open enrollment and change your mind,you can still make changes before open enrollment ends.
In most states, health insurance open enrollment for plans beginning Jan. 1, 2019, took place from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, 2018.1 That means if you are reading this, open enrollment is probably over.
Based on the open enrollment dates in recent years, it’s likely the open enrollment period for 2020 coverage will begin Nov. 1, 2019, but this has yet to be confirmed.
During a special enrollment period
You might be able to switch health insurance plans outside of open enrollment if you experience a qualifying life event such as getting married or divorced, having a child, moving to a new coverage area or losing job-based coverage.2
Such events trigger what is called a special enrollment period, a limited time period in which you can buy a new Obamacare plan. In most circumstances, special enrollment lasts 60 days from the qualifying life event.3
Can you just cancel your Obamacare plan?
Let’s say you want to switch health insurance plans halfway through the year and don’t qualify for special enrollment, but you’d still like to cancel your current coverage. Is that an option?
Yes, it’s possible. However, it could leave your finances vulnerable to unexpected medical bills should you become sick or injured.
You may want to consider a supplemental gap health plan or alternative health insurance like short-term medical or hospital indemnity insurance. We’ll talk about these options, which are available year-round, next.
What to do if you can’t switch health insurance
Add supplemental health insurance
Afraid you can’t afford to meet your Obamacare deductible? You’re not alone. 43% of insured adults said they had difficulty affording their deductible in 2017.4
It may seem counterintuitive, but buying supplemental benefits could help you with out-of-pocket medical expenses, including those not covered by your major medical policy as well as the covered medical expenses you’re responsible for until you reach your policy deductible.
Gap health insurance is a type of supplemental insurance that pays a fixed lump-sum benefit when you experience a covered accident or critical illness. You can use that benefit to help pay your deductible, coinsurance or other expenses as you see fit.
You might also want to consider health insurance add-ons such as telemedicine and prescription drug cards; they are not health insurance products, but they can help lower what you pay out of pocket for certain medical expenses.
Apply for alternative health insurance
If you wind up without major medical insurance (i.e., an Obamacare plan), then you may want to look into alternative coverage such as:
- Short-term health insurance, which provides temporary coverage for as few as 30 days and up to 364 days, depending on your state. Short-term policy benefits cover a range of medical expenses related to injuries and unexpected illnesses; however, most policies exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions.
- Hospital insurance, which pays fixed benefit amounts when you incur a covered hospital-related expense such as hospital room and board, inpatient prescription medications, inpatient and outpatient surgery, and more.
- An alternative health insurance package including short-term health and hospital insurance.
Alternative health insurance policies are available year-round. However, they are not available in every state, and coverage is not guaranteed issue. These are not comprehensive, ACA-compliant policies, which means they do not include all essential health benefits; as a result, you may experience lower monthly premiums but will have fewer policy benefits. Premiums vary based on benefits selected.
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What if you can’t afford your Obamacare plan anymore?
What happens if you simply can’t afford your health insurance premium at some point in the year? If you don’t qualify for a special enrollment period, you can’t switch. You may want to consider one of the options discussed above (supplemental or alternative health insurance).
If you find yourself in a position where your current health insurance is unaffordable, remember: You don’t have to make these decisions alone and guess the best course of action.
Work with a health insurance agent who can help find the best solution for you either on or away from the state-based and federally facilitated health insurance exchanges.
A note about the ACA tax penalty in 2019
The individual federal mandate will not be enforced in 2019. Depending on your state, you may no longer owe a tax penalty if you go without health insurance that is considered minimum essential coverage (e.g., major medical insurance, Medicare, Medicaid).
Learn more about the individual mandate penalty repeal.
Summary + next steps
If for any reason, you’re interested in changing health insurance after open enrollment, you do have some options: special enrollment, adding supplemental health insurance, or canceling your current coverage and enrolling in alternative health insurance.
How to make the switch (and what to switch to) ultimately depends on your life circumstances and coverage needs. There are many resources available to help you decide.
- Find a local agent.
- Call 866-278-1464 to speak with a licensed agent now.
- Research supplemental and alternative health insurance and gather quotes on your own.
- Contact HealthCare.gov or your state exchange.