My carrier is allowing me to renew my pre-2014 plan. Can I shop for a new plan instead?

Q. I have an individual policy that I’ve had since 2011. It egulenews in June, and is eligible for renewal again this year. Do I have to renew it – at whatever rate the carrier offers me – or can I shop for a new plan instead?

ACA open enrollment guide

The Insider’s Guide to Obamacare’s Open Enrollment offers time-saving strategies for selecting coverage during open enrollment. (Click the image for a free download.)

A. You’ll have a special open enrollment period that begins 60 days before your renewal date and extends for 60 days after the renewal date.

Your situation will be relatively common again this year, as the Obama Administration announced in February 2016 that non-grandfathered, pre-2014 plans could continue to exist until as late as December 31, 2017, with renewal allowed until as late as October 1, 2017 (the decision is left up to each state, and then carriers have the final say in states that permit the extension). States and carriers have the option to allow existing plans to renew again in 2016 and most of 2017, and the majority of the states opted to allow these renewals. As a result, many non-ACA-compliant plans are once again eligible for renewal this year.

But you are not obligated to accept the renewal. HHS issued regulations in May 2014 clarifying that an individual plan renewal is a qualifying event just as a plan termination would be. So even though your renewal date occurs outside of the annual open enrollment window, you’ll have the option to enroll in a new plan instead of renewing your existing plan.

During your special open enrollment, you can shop on or off-exchange for an ACA-compliant plan to replace your existing policy. But be sure to shop in the exchange if you’re eligible for premium subsidies or cost-sharing subsidies, as those are not available outside the exchange.

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