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The open enrollment period for 2024 health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act started Wednesday. The ACA is designed to give more Americans access to lower-cost health insurance and also expands Medicaid, as well as supports new medical delivery methods, such as ACA Health Homes.
As of March, more than 40 million Americans are enrolled in the ACA health insurance marketplace. The ACA, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010, is also known as Obamacare. Keep reading to find out if you qualify for coverage under the ACA, how to enroll and when the deadlines are.
For more health care tips, learn about the best telehealth services and find out how you can save money on medical bills if you don’t have insurance.
When’s the deadline to sign up for a health care plan with the ACA marketplace?
While open enrollment continues through Jan. 15, you need to sign up by Dec. 15 to receive complete coverage as early as Jan. 1, 2024. If you sign up for a plan from Dec. 16 through Jan. 15 and pay your premium, your coverage will begin Feb. 1.
Depending on your circumstances you may be eligible for special enrollment outside of those dates. Here’s how you may qualify:
You had a life-changing event in the past 60 days: The events include losing health insurance coverage, having a baby, getting married, getting divorced or moving to a new ZIP code. Also, if you had a change in household income or if someone on your plan died, you might qualify.
Note that if you moved to a new ZIP code, you must show proof that you had insurance for at least one day during the past 60 days, or that you’ll lose coverage in the next 60 days. Also, if you’ve lost your job and decide not to accept COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) coverage, you can still enroll in an ACA plan.
You’re applying for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): If you’re applying for either of these programs, you can apply for health insurance via the marketplace at any time.
Other life circumstances that could qualify you:
- You’re getting out of prison.
- You just became a US citizen.
- You’re starting or ending service in AmeriCorps.
- You’ve gained membership in a federally recognized tribe or status as an Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) Corporation shareholder.
To see if you qualify for special enrollment, follow the steps above at healthcare.gov/screener/. If you’re eligible, your health care plan would begin the first of the month after you enroll. For instance, if you enroll in August, your coverage would begin on Sept. 1.
What health insurance plans are available under the ACA?
Assuming you qualify for the Affordable Care Act (see below), the state you live in determines which health care providers you can use. For each plan, you should see bronze, silver, gold and platinum options. Here’s a breakdown of how each plan works.
Bronze: You’ll pay the lowest monthly premium, but you’ll pay more when it comes to paying for care. The bronze plan deductible is generally much higher than the other options, so you’ll pay more out of pocket until your deductible is met.
Silver: This middle-of-the-road coverage comes with a moderate monthly premium. It will cost you more than the bronze option, but your costs for medical treatment will be less than if you went with the bronze plan.
Gold: This plan includes a high monthly premium, and low costs when you need health care. A low deductible means the amount of medical costs you pay out of pocket will be much less than with the bronze and silver plans.
Platinum: The most expensive monthly premium gives you the lowest costs when it comes to medical care. Since the deductible is very low, your plan will start paying your medical costs sooner than any of the other options.
Deciding which plan to choose depends on your lifestyle, how often you’ll need health care and what sort of medical treatment you require. For instance, if you’re healthy and only expect to need to use your insurance for emergencies, you might opt for the bronze or silver plan. If you’re currently receiving treatment or expect to need regular medical attention, the gold and platinum options could be the best options for you.
If you are under 30 years old or have an exemption based on an inability to afford health insurance, you may qualify for a Catastrophic plan, which has a very low monthly premium and a very high deductible.
Note: Premiums are based on income levels, so if you make less, your premium may be lower.
How do I find out if I qualify for an Affordable Care Act plan?
Before you start thinking about which plan you’ll choose, you should first find out if you actually qualify for a plan through the health insurance marketplace. Go to healthcare.gov/screener and enter your ZIP code.
You’ll next answer a few questions to see if you qualify for discounted or full-price coverage. Once you get an answer, your next step is to complete an application with either the health insurance marketplace or your state’s own marketplace to see plans and prices.
How to sign up for Obamacare
Once you’re ready to sign up — whether it’s between Nov. 1 and Jan. 15 or via special enrollment — you’ll need to create an account on HealthCare.gov or through your state’s provider. You’ll then complete the application to see plans and pricing and select which option is best for you.
Things you may need while applying:
- Social Security numbers for everyone on your application.
- Employer and income information for everyone in your household.
- Current health insurance policy numbers (if applicable).
- Information about health insurance available from your employer.
- Immigration documentation.
Again, after you’re enrolled, your plan should start the first of the month following your enrollment date, assuming that you’ve paid your first month’s premium.
Keep an eye out for your insurance card in the mail after you enroll, as well as any other information about the health care plan you chose.
For more health care information, find out if your insurance covers online therapy and how to check your heart health without equipment.