Q: I’ve heard that time frame for purchasing individual health insurance has changed. Can you explain what dates we need to know?
A: Applicants in states where HHS is running the exchange – and most states that are running their own exchanges – now have until December 23 to enroll in coverage and have a January 1 effective date. This gives people an extra eight days, as the original deadline was December 15th. Applicants must also pay their first premium by the end of December in order to have coverage in effect on January 1. [One notable exception to the deadline extension is Oregon, where applications are being done on paper and plan selections must be postmarked by December 16 for a January 1 effective date.]
Open enrollment is still scheduled to end on March 31. Applications submitted in the second half of March will result in an effective date of May 1, but anyone who enrolls by March 31 will be exempt from the individual mandate penalty as long as they remain covered for the remainder of the year.
If you do not enroll by March 31, your next enrollment opportunity will be the 2015 open enrollment period (unless you have a qualifying event during the year). That is now scheduled for November 15, 2014 through January 15, 2015.
It was originally scheduled to begin in October, but has been pushed back a month. The earliest possible effective date during that open enrollment is still January 1, 2015 though, and applicants now have a full two months of open enrollment for 2015.