Did you buy health insurance just to avoid a tax penalty? All was going according to plan until a visit to the urgent care left you with sticker shock, or you found out your preferred doctor isn’t covered in your network.
With open enrollment well behind us, is it too late to change your mind and switch health insurance plans?
Unfortunately, when buyer’s remorse sets in, you have few options to switch health insurance mid-year, but there are also some low-cost supplemental insurance plans that can help cover your medical expenses. More on that later.
When can you switch health insurance plans?
Under the Affordable Care Act, there are two times when you can choose a new major medical insurance plan:
1. During the annual open enrollment period
Health insurance open enrollment for plans beginning in 2018 took place from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, 2017. The exact open enrollment dates1 for 2019 plans haven’t been announced, but will likely be in the fall of 2018.
If you buy health insurance during open enrollment and change your mind, you can still make changes before open enrollment ends.
2. 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.
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.2
To learn more about special enrollment eligibility and length as it relates to your situation, contact HealthCare.gov, your state’s health insurance exchange, or a health insurance producer.
If you do experience one of these qualifying events, make sure you also check to see if your new situation qualifies you for a subsidy. You may be eligible for a premium tax credit to help lower your monthly premium payments, or cost-sharing reductions that help with out-of-pocket expenses when you buy from HealthCare.gov or a state exchange.
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. It’s possible, but not typically advised.
Going without healthcare coverage could leave your finances vulnerable to unexpected medical bills. It could also subject you to a tax penalty for going uninsured if you’re not exempt from the individual mandate.
Financial hardship is one of the qualifying exemptions to the Obamacare individual mandate. Be sure to see if you qualify for an exemption from the tax penalty before deciding to cancel your major medical plan.
If you do cancel your Obamacare plan, secure temporary coverage in the form of short-term health insurance – it provides temporary benefits to help pay for covered expenses until next open enrollment.
What to do if you can’t switch to a different health plan
Are you stuck with your current plan until next open enrollment because you don’t qualify for special enrollment or ACA exemption?
When you can’t switch health plans, consider adding supplemental health insurance coverage and health insurance add-ons to help lessen the impact of out-of-pocket medical expenses. Solutions such as gap health insurance and telemedicine plans are available year-round.
Medical gap health plans help pay your Obamacare deductible
It may seem counterintuitive, but buying additional benefits could help. Adding a gap plan is one option. These plans have premiums that begin at $1 a day.
Supplemental coverage options such as a medical gap plan can help pay for healthcare expenses your major medical plan doesn’t.
How medical gap plans work: When you experience a covered accident or illness, you receive a lump-sum benefit. You can use this benefit to cover medical bills, transportation costs to and from appointments, and experimental treatments, as well as household expenses such as groceries, rent/mortgage.
These are only a few examples of how medical gap benefits may be used. You get to choose where to spend the money!
Get healthcare from home with Telemedicine
Skip the waiting room and save money! Some studies show that telehealth plans can save you $100 or more on a visit to the doctor.4
The Telemedicine package sold through HealtheDeals.com costs $12.95 per month for an individual and $14.95 per month for a family. After that, telehealth consultations are just $15 each.
How telehealth works: Telehealth coverage lets you access inexpensive healthcare 24/7, from most anywhere. Board-certified doctors can treat and diagnose minor ailments such as cold, flu, ear infections and urinary tract infections over the phone.
What to do if you can’t afford your Obamacare plan anymore
If you find yourself in a position where your current health plan is unaffordable, remember: You don’t have to make these decisions alone and guess the best course of action.
Work with a health insurance professional for free who can help find the best solution for you either on or away from the state-based and federally facilitated health insurance exchanges.
Search Agent Finder for a health insurance producer near you, or contact a the number on your screen to be connected with a certified advisor.
Get an instant gap health insurance quote (it’s free and takes 1 minute) – Since these plans are effective upon application and payment verification, you can have peace of mind today knowing that you are covered.
Learn more about the convenience and cost-savings of Telemedicine.
Want more information about your options when you’re considering switching health insurance plans? Listen to our podcast: What Should You Do When You Can’t Afford Your Health Insurance Plan Anymore?