How to Sign up for Health Insurance Under the Affordable Care Act

To sign up for ObamaCare find your State’s health insurance marketplace, sign up, then enroll. Sign up for ObamaCare during open enrollment. You had until March 31st at the latest to enroll in a plan to avoid owing the per-month fee for not having health insurance in 2014!

Open enrollment for 2014 is over, next open enrollment starts November 15th, 2014. Directions for signing up, as well as details on fees, exemptions, enrollment periods, and information on what to do if you missed the ObamaCare deadline can be found below.

health insurance call number

Quick Facts About Signing Up for ObamaCare’s Health Insurance Marketplace

• Unless you quality for an exemption, you need to obtain and/or maintain minimum essential coverage throughout the year, or you will owe a fee for each month you go without coverage.

Minimum essential coverage includes all marketplace coverage, most major medical coverage sold outside of the marketplace, Medicare, Medicaid, employer based coverage, and more. It does not include short term health insurance.

• You can use your state’s marketplace to sign up and enroll in a plan during each years open enrollment period or you can shop for coverage outside the marketplace.

• You can’t buy or change plans outside of open enrollment without qualifying for special enrollment.

• Plans purchased during open enrollment 2014 end December 31st, 2014. So you’ll need to decide if you want to keep or change your plan during open enrollment 2015.

• Most private coverage options outside of open enrollment, like short term health insurance, aren’t major medical plans and don’t count as minimum essential coverage. Short term will protect your health, but doesn’t follow all the rules and regulations of the Affordable Care Act, and it doesn’t protect you from the fee for not having insurance.

• Anyone can sign up for ObamaCare’s marketplace, but if you have access to insurance through your employer, qualify for Medicaid, CHIP or Medicare, or make over 400% of the Federal Poverty Level you won’t have access to cost assistance like tax credits for lower premiums or cost assistance subsidies for lower out-of-pocket costs.

• As of April 17th over 8 million have enrolled in private health plans through the State and Federal marketplaces and even more have enrolled in Medicaid. It’s estimated that between 15-20 million got covered during open enrollment 2014 through all insurance types.

• Marketplace insurance purchased before the 15th of each month starts on the first of the following month after you have paid your premium.

• Open enrollment for 2014 is over, but you may still have options for coverage. Check out what to do if you missed the ObamaCare deadline and see if you are eligible for extended ObamaCare enrollment.

obamacare open enrollment deadline

Sign up for the marketplace ahead of time and make sure your account is up and running smoothly, then you have until the end of open enrollment (or a special enrollment period if you qualify), to enroll in plan! Leaving the application process to the last minute could result in you missing your chance to get cost assistance until next open enrollment.

When Does ObamaCare Start?

ObamaCare was signed into law in March of 2010. Open enrollment in the marketplaces to buy subsidized private insurance for 2014 started on October 1st, 2013 and ended March 31st, 2014 (extended to April 15th for those who qualify for a special enrollment).

Open enrollment for 2015 starts on November 15th, 2014. The law requires you to have insurance in 2014 or pay a per-month fee.

See below for details on exemptions, extensions and open enrollment periods.

Who Is Eligible For ObamaCare Enrollment?

Any legal citizen, who does not qualify for Medicare and who wants to purchase private insurance is eligible for the marketplace, however not everyone is eligible for subsidies. You can also sign up for Medicaid or CHIP through the marketplace. If you have employer based coverage you’ll sign up through work and if you qualify for Medicare you must sign up for Medicare separately.

If you’re eligible for job-based insurance, you can consider switching to a Marketplace plan. But you won’t qualify for lower costs based on your income unless the job-based insurance don’t pay at least 50% of your premium, is unaffordable (9.5% of family income for employee only insurance), or doesn’t meet minimum requirements (must be equivalent of a bronze plan sold on the marketplace). You also may lose any contribution your employer makes to your premiums.

Medicaid Enrollment and CHIP Enrollment

You can enroll in Medicaid or CHIP 365 days a year! Medicaid coverage can start retroactively up to two months. If you want to make life easy and sign up for Medicaid or CHIP through the marketplace you’ll have to sign up during open enrollment. If you miss open enrollment in the marketplace you have other Medicaid sign up options.

Medicare Enrollment

Medicare isn’t part of the health insurance marketplace, if you would like to sign up for Original Medicare or supplemental Medicare please see our page on Medicare Enrollment to learn how to sign up for Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Part D, and Medigap.

Do I Have to Sign Up For ObamaCare?

Unless you quality for an exemption you will need to obtain and/or maintain minimum essential coverage throughout each month of the year.

You are considered covered if you have minimum essential coverage. In general minimum essential coverage includes: all marketplace coverage, a private major medical insurance plan outside the marketplace (there are limitations), grandfathered health plans, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, COBRA, retiree coverage, TRICARE, VA health coverage, or some other kinds of health coverage.

Please see our ObamaCare exemptions page for a list of those who do not have to obtain coverage in 2014 as well as annual grace periods.

When Can I Sign Up For ObamaCare?

You must sign up for ObamaCare during open enrollment. If you missed open enrollment for 2014 you won’t be able to enroll in a marketplace plan again until November 15th, 2014 (open enrollment for 2015) unless you qualify for a special enrollment period.

ObamaCare Special Enrollment Period

A special enrollment period is a time outside of open enrollment  when you and your family can sign up for health insurance in the health insurance marketplace. You may qualify for a special enrollment period of 60 days following certain life events that involve a change in family status (for example, marriage or birth of a child) or loss of other health coverage.

If you don’t have a special enrollment period, you can’t buy insurance inside or outside the Marketplace until the next open enrollment period.

ObamaCare Enrollment and Sign Up Advice

ObamaCare enrollment and sign up has to be done during open enrollment or a special enrollment period each year in order to get insurance through the health insurance marketplace. Don’t leave signing up until the last minute. The process of creating an account and choosing the right health plan can be pretty time consuming when done right and you’ll not only need to sign up, but also enroll in a plan by the deadline.

Just creating an account can take a while if you are unlucky. Let’s say you are missing a document or your social cannot be verified, yikes! Although getting on the phone with a navigator can lead to a solution, the wait time is only going to increase as we move toward the last minute. The chances of running into an issue may be slim, but they do exist.

Once you get your account set up you’ll actually need to shop for a health plan and enroll. Having to make a last minute decision about your healthcare isn’t a wise move. When you start looking at plans you’ll realize you have a lot of choices. You can check out our page on how to buy health insurance to get a better idea of what all the jargon means. The bottom line, do yourself a favor and sign up early.

If you don’t plan to use the exchanges most agents can help you pick the right plan for you and your family and because agents are paid by the insurance company a specific plan in a specific region will always cost the same amount no matter where you get it. If you would like help figuring out your insurance options use the phone number on our site or you can go directly to your states marketplace and talk to one of their dedicated navigators or brokers.

Get Help Signing Up For Health Insurance

There are a number of ways to get help signing up for health insurance. We suggest the following methods unless you qualify for insurance through work, Medicare, TRICARE, or another type of non-private health insurance.

1. You can go direct to your states marketplace website and sign up. State marketplaces offer free help over the phone and in-person help for signing up. Details found below. Plans are limited to those sold on the marketplace in your area. If you think you qualify for Medicaid please see our Medicaid page for more details. If you know you are eligible for cost assistance or Medicaid this is a great option.

2. Go direct to a provider. You’ll see top providers listed on our site you can sign up directly with a provider. Any provider will be able to sign you up for plans they sell in your state on or off the marketplace. If you know what plan you want or what provider you want to use this is a great option.

3. Use a health insurance broker or agent. A broker or agent can help you sign up for the marketplaces and help you to see if you qualify for cost assistance online, in-person, or on the phone. Brokers and agents also have access to different plans from different providers both inside and outside of the marketplace. Brokers are paid by the insurance companies so you won’t pay more by using this service. If you aren’t sure if you qualify for cost assistance or know you don’t this is a great option.

All providers and brokers listed on our site can help you to see if you qualify for cost assistance subsidies via your states marketplace. However, if you choose a plan not offered on the marketplace you won’t be able to get cost assistance. All plans sold on and off the marketplace are regulated so you won’t pay more or less (barring cost assistance) no matter how you shop.

Sign Up For Cost Assistance Subsidies

You can use the ehealthinsurance.com subsidy calculator to see if you qualify for cost assistance on the marketplace and learn about your health care options both inside and outside of the marketplace at the same time. You can also simply find your states marketplace and fill out an application to see if you qualify for cost assistance subsidies.

ObamaCare Deadlines

There are a few important ObamaCare deadlines everyone needs to know. Here is a quick breakdown of important ObamaCare deadlines for signing up for health insurance.

October 1st, 2013 – ObamaCare’s health insurance marketplaces opened.

December 24th, 2013 – The initial deadline to sign up for insurance that started as early as January 1st. In some States this deadline has been pushed further.

January 1st, 2014 – A number of new benefits, rights and protections go into effect on all non-grandfathered insurance plans.

January 1st to the 15th, 2013 – If you did sign up for insurance that started before January 1st, 2014 you’ll have to pay your premium before the first cut of date. Many insurance companies are giving customers up until the 10th or 15th of the month to pay their first premium.

The 15th of each month (ending March 31st, 2014) – You’ll have to sign up for insurance by the 15th of each month to have insurance that starts the following month. If you sign up after the 15th, you’ll be waiting an extra month for your insurance to kick in.

March 15th, 2014 – You are allowed up to three months in a row without coverage in 2013 due to a “coverage gap” exemption (before you owe a per-month fee for not having coverage). You’ll need to sign up for the marketplace by March 15th to meet this deadline.

“Short Coverage Gap” Exemption(s) Update: Although the “short coverage gap” exemption allows you up to three months in a row without coverage in 2014, healthcare.gov has stated folks have until March 31st, 2014 to enroll in a marketplace plan and still avoid the fee (due to an additional exemption which covers April). So you could enroll on March 31st and have coverage that starts on May 1st and still avoid being responsibility for the shared responsibility payment.

March 31st, 2014 – Open enrollment for 2014 ends on March 31st, 2014. You can still sign up for off-marketplace insurance or Medicaid after open enrollment. Medicaid can even start up to two months retroactively while private insurance typically starts on the 1st of the following month if purchased before the 15th.

Mid-April 2014 – If you signed up for the marketplace by March 31st, 2014 but weren’t able to enroll you will be able to check a box that will allow you to enroll until mid-April due to a last minute ObamaCare extension. There will be other opportunities for special enrollment periods for certain life events, but they will require calling the official call center and requesting a special enrollment period.

• Certain life events like having a child or moving out of state can qualify you for a special enrollment period that allows you to purchase marketplace insurance outside of open enrollment with federal subsidies.

November 31st, 2014 – Open enrollment for 2015 begins for both individuals and small business portions of the marketplace. Small businesses have been eligible for tax credits for insuring employees since 2010. This must be done with the aid of an agent using a paper form for 2010-2014. Tax credits are retroactive. Learn more about ObamaCare and small business.

December 15th, 2014 – Coverage ends for Marketplace plans bought in 2014.

January 1st, 2015 – Large employers must start to offer health insurance to full-time employees. Learn more about the “employer mandate“.

January 15th, 2015 – Open enrollment 2015 closes.

ObamaCare Deadline Extension

There is an ObamaCare deadline extension for folks who have signed up for the health insurance marketplace but were unable to enroll in a plan by the March 31 deadline. By checking a box upon logging in after April 1st you will be able to enroll in a plan until about mid-April. Learn more about the ObamaCare deadline extension and special enrollment periods.

What You Need To Sign Up For ObamaCare

Make sure you have the following information about your and your family before visiting your State’s Health Insurance Market Place

• Last years tax information for you and your family

• Projected incomes for this year

• Medical history – ObamaCare does away with pre-existing conditions and gender discrimination so these factors will no longer affect the cost of your insurance. Smoking, weight and age still all affect cost.

• Social Security Numbers (or document numbers for legal immigrants)

• Employer and income information for every member of your household who needs coverage (for example, from pay stubs or W-2 forms—Wage and Tax Statements)

• Policy numbers for any current health insurance plans covering members of your household.

• A completed Employer Coverage Tool  for every job-based plan you or someone in your household is eligible for. (You’ll need to fill out this form even for coverage you’re eligible for but don’t enroll in.)

• Any other important information that could affect your health insurance premium or coverage options. Better safe than sorry!

Here is an example of the health insurance exchange application form for individuals.

Here is an example of the health insurance exchange application form for families.

Want more information on the marketplace and how to sign up? Check out our guide to the health insurance marketplace.

How to Sign Up For The Health Insurance Marketplace

Obviously you can use your State’s health insurance marketplace to sign up for private insurance, get access to subsidies, or apply for Medicaid or CHIP, but there are actually four ways to sign up including the website.

1) Find your State’s marketplace website.

2) Get in person help. You can find in person help by going toLocalHelp.Healthcare.gov.

3) Call the 24/7 marketplace helpline 1-800-318-2596.

4) Mail in a paper application. bit.ly/PaperApplication. (read these instructions first)

how to get health insurance

How to Enroll in a Health Insurance Marketplace Plan

Here are the official directions for enrolling in a marketplace plan through healthcare.gov. Remember signing up is only step one, you still need to choose a plan and make sure your first payment is made to officially have coverage. State based marketplaces have very similar sign up and enrollment processes, the direction below are specifically for State’s running a federal based marketplace (i.e. State’s using healthcare.gov as their marketplace).

  1. Set up an account. First you’ll provide some basic information. Then choose a user name, password, and security questions for added protection.
  2. Fill out the online application. You’ll provide information about you and your family, like income, household size, current health coverage information, and more. This will help the Marketplace find options that meet your needs. Important: If your household files more than one tax return, call the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 before you start an application.(TTY: 1-855-889-4325) This is a very important step. Please don’t skip it. Representatives can provide directions to make sure your application is processed correctly.
  3. Compare your options. You’ll be able to see all the options you qualify for, including private insurance plans and free and low-cost coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The Marketplace will tell you if you qualify for lower costs on your monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs on deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. You’ll see details on costs and benefits to help you choose a plan that’s right for you.
  4. Enroll. After you choose a plan, you can enroll online and decide how you pay your premiums to your insurance company. If you or a member of your family qualify for Medicaid or CHIP, a representative will contact you to enroll. If you have any questions, there’s plenty of live and online help along the way.

For more details on signing up you can check out our health insurance marketplace guide or find your State’s health insurance marketplace now to get started.

ObamaCare Missed Deadline

If you miss the deadline for ObamaCare you still have options for coverage including a special enrollment period and options for obtaining Medicaid, CHIP, or health coverage outside of the marketplace. Check out our breakdown of what to do if you miss the ObamaCare deadline.

Coverage Gap Exemption For January Through April

Luckily under the Affordable Care Act you are allowed up to three month in a row without insurance in 2014 due to a “coverage gap” exemption, which avoids the fee for January through March. An additional exemption covers April, as those who sign up between March 15th and March 31st won’t have coverage that starts until May 1st (insurance you buy after the 15th starts on the 1st of the month following the next).

As long as you enroll in a marketplace plan by March 31st, 2014 and sign up for coverage that starts by May 1st, 2014 you will be complying with the law and will avoid the fee for not having insurance (to understand exactly how exemptions work please check out our ObamaCare exemptions page).

ObamaCare Open Enrollment 2014 and Beyond

Open enrollment in ObamaCare’s marketplace goes from now until March 31st, 2014. Apply to the marketplace today and see if you qualify for subsidies. Insurance purchased through the marketplace before the 15th of each month starts on the 1st of the following month. Enroll in a plan by March 15th, 2014 for coverage that starts April 1st, 2014.

If you miss open enrollment you won’t be able to enroll in a marketplace plan again until November 15th, 2014 (open enrollment for 2015) unless you qualify for a special enrollment period. Please note you can buy insurance outside of the marketplace at anytime or sign up for CHIP and Medicaid up to two months retroactively at anytime if you qualify. Medicare and employer based insurance both have their own special enrollment periods as well. Please note that even though you can obtain insurance outside of open enrollment it does not prevent you for owing the fee for months you don’t have insurance.

Learn more about ObamaCare’s open enrollment to understand when you can sign up for different types of health insurance.

Other Ways to Sign Up For Insurance Under the Affordable Care Act

Aside from the marketplace there are number of other options for getting coverage in 2014. Check out our guide to buying health insurance for 2014 to learn about more ways to sign up for insurance, you can also check out our guide to different types of plans sold on the health insurance marketplace.

 

How to: ObamaCare Sign Up
obamacarefacts-footer