Choosing the right health insurance plan is a big decision. It can also be complicated, especially if you’re a new parent or someone who has recently lived abroad. In this guide, DJ Bettencourt will walk you through the steps of picking the best coverage for your needs — whether that’s a high-deductible plan with low premiums or something more comprehensive with higher out-of-pocket costs.
You don’t have to apply for health insurance during open enrollment.
You can apply for health insurance at any time during the year. You don’t have to wait until open enrollment or a special event such as a birthday or New Year’s Eve.
If you have a qualifying life event that allows you to enroll outside of open enrollment, such as getting married, having a baby or losing other coverage through your employer (for example), then it’s best to apply right away so that you can get coverage as soon as possible. In some cases there may be an extension on the deadline for submitting an application after meeting these requirements:
See if you qualify for a special enrollment period
A special enrollment period is a time when you can sign up for health insurance, even if it’s after the open enrollment period. This may be because you had a change in life circumstances (like losing your job or getting married) or because of certain events that made the plans available to you more affordable.
If you qualify for an SEP, it will run from November 1-December 15–the same time as open enrollment. You’ll need to enroll within this time frame in order to avoid paying any penalty fees on your taxes next year due to being uninsured as mandated by Obamacare.
Check the size of each plan’s network before choosing one.
When choosing a health insurance plan, it’s important to consider the size of the network. A plan with a large network will likely have more hospitals, doctors and specialists available for you to see. This can be important if you need to see a specialist who might not be in your primary care physician’s office.
Check the number of hospitals in each area where you live or work as well as how many doctors are on each insurer’s roster and whether there are any restrictions on coverage (for example, limits on how many times you can see a specialist).
Consider short-term health insurance as an alternative if you’re between jobs.
If you’re between jobs, short-term health insurance can be an alternative to traditional plans. Short-term plans are typically much less expensive than regular health insurance, but they have limitations: They don’t cover pre-existing conditions and they don’t provide the same level of coverage that traditional plans do. If your plan is canceled due to a change in employment status or income level (such as losing your job), then short-term plans may be a good option for you until your next employer offers affordable health benefits again–or until ACA becomes available again in 2020.
We hope this article has helped you understand how to choose the right health insurance plan for your needs. If you’re still unsure, we encourage you to talk with a licensed health care provider who can help guide you through the process and answer any questions that may arise.