Four Reasons to Enroll in an ACA Health Plan Now, Instead of Waiting Until January

The open enrollment period for the 2022 individual/family health insurance coverage began on November 1. This year, the enrollment window is extended in most states. It continues until at least January 15, 2019. Idaho still plans to end the open enrollment period on December 15 for now.

This longer period of open enrollment does allow people some extra wiggle room during the hectic holiday season. For most people, the December 15 deadline is still the one they’ll need to keep in mind. This is the last day to sign up for coverage that will take effect on January 1 in most states.

What states allow open enrollment before December 15, but still have effective dates of January 1?

There are exceptions. There are some exceptions.

  • California (December 31)
  • Connecticut (December 31).
  • Kentucky (December 31; technically a twister/disaster-related particular enrollment interval)
  • Maryland (December 31).
  • Massachusetts (December 23, 2009)
  • Nevada (December 31)
  • New Mexico (December 23)
  • New Jersey (December 31, 2018)
  • Rhode Island (December 31, 2018)

In the rest of the country, however, you must enroll before December 15 in order to start your plan on January 1. This is important for many reasons.

1. Uninsured at the moment? If you delay your enrollment, there will be no coverage in January.

If you haven’t already enrolled for ACA-compliant coverage in 2021, this open enrollment period is your chance to do so in 2022.

If you wait until the last minute to sign up, you won’t be covered when the new year begins. If you wait until the last minute to enroll, you won’t have coverage in place when the new year begins.

2. Are you currently uninsured, or are you enrolled in an insurance plan that is not market-based? Delaying enrollment could mean losing out on free money.

If you were unable to afford market coverage in the past, you may now be uninsured. Or you could be enrolled in a non-ACA-regulated plan. If you were not eligible for subsidies, you could have chosen to buy ACA-compliant coverage outside the change.

The American Rescue Plan has made it possible for many people who were not eligible in the past to receive subsidies. These subsidies can only be accessed if you are enrolled in an exchange/market plan. The current open enrollment period is your chance to switch to a change plan.

Premium subsidies are also larger than last fall. People who did not enroll last year due to the price may find that coverage now fits their budget.

Four out of five people who are looking for coverage in the 33 states using the federally run market (HealthCare.gov), will find that they can get it for $10/month, or less. Many thousands of people who are uninsured could be eligible for free coverage in the market.

If you wait until the last minute to sign up for protection, then you will be leaving all of that money on the table in January. Our subsidy calculator will give you an idea of the amount your subsidy is going to be in 2022. You should enroll before December 15 to be eligible for the subsidy throughout the entire year.

3. Letting your plan auto-renew? You could be in for an unpleasant surprise.

If you’ve already purchased insurance through the market for 2021 and plan to let it renew automatically, you may find that you wake up on the first of January with coverage and premiums that weren’t as you expected.

Even if you are 100% satisfied with your plan, you still owe yourself a little time to explore the options available before December 15. Your insurer’s premiums will likely change in 2022. Your subsidy amount may also change, especially if new insurers join the market in your area.

You may find that your insurer is also making changes to the benefits, provider network, or covered drug list — or even discontinuing and replacing the plan with a new one. The plan and price you may have had on January 1, could be very different than what you have now.

HHS chose to extend the period of open enrollment to allow people to “do over” their auto-renewed plans if they are not what they expected. In almost all states, you will have until at least January 15th to choose a new plan. This plan selection will not be retroactive for January 1.

4. The billing cycle for out-of-pocket expenses is not changed in February or march.

If you are enrolled in an insurance plan for the market in 2021 and let it renew automatically for 2022 but decide after December 15 you would rather have a different plan, what can you do? You can do this because of the extended open enrollment period. Your new plan will go into effect in February.

It’s important to understand that your plan will start over in February or early March. The out-of pocket costs that are counted toward your deductible will be reset to zero, even if you had out-of -pocket expenses in January.

All market plans reset their out-of-pocket costs to zero on January 1. Your auto-renewed policy will then begin with a new deductible. If you need medical attention in January and have similar out-of pocket costs, but your new plan doesn’t take effect until February, then you will have a lower out-of -pocket exposure for the whole year than if you had chosen your new plan before December 15th.

This is a good reminder that, while most enrollees will have until at least mid-January 2022 to sign up for protection, you’ll be best served to make your decision by December 15th.


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