March 13, 2014
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Open enrollment for all individual heath insurance plans in Washington state – whether purchased inside or outside Washington’s Exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder – ends March 31. If you need coverage by April 1, you must apply by March 23. If you apply after March 23, your coverage will begin May 1.
“If you need health insurance this year, do not wait until the end of March to enroll,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “Delaying could leave you uninsured for another month.”
Enrollment periods are common for people who get their insurance through their employer, but they’re new for the individual market. In the past, people could buy health insurance whenever they needed it as long as they could pass a health screen.
Now, under the federal Affordable Care Act, you cannot be denied health insurance but you must buy coverage during a limited period of time. This is designed to prevent people from buying health insurance only when they need it. Special enrollment periods may apply if you have a qualifying event. If you experience one of these events, you generally have 60 days to buy coverage.
The following qualifying events apply to all individual health plans, both inside and outside the Exchange (Washington Healthplanfinder):
- You lose your health coverage, including an employer plan.
- You’re no longer eligible for Apple Health (Medicaid).
- You permanently move to a new area where your current plan doesn't provide coverage.
- You give birth or adopt a child, or place a child for adoption.
- The Exchange (www.wahealthplanfinder.org) discontinues your coverage.
- Your employer doesn't pay your COBRA premiums on time.
- Your COBRA coverage period ends (usually after 18 months) or you reach the lifetime limit on your COBRA plan.
- Your dependent loses their coverage on your employer plan due to age.
- You get married or enter into a domestic partnership (dependents also qualify).
- You get divorced or you end a domestic partnership.
- You discontinue your Washington State Health Insurance Pool (WSHIP) coverage.
These additional qualifying events may apply if you bought your coverage through the Exchange (www.wahealthplanfinder.org):
- You can show the Exchange that your health insurer violated an important provision of its contract with you, such as failing to pay claims for covered health care treatments.
- You lose coverage due to errors made by the Exchange.
- You or your dependent become a legal resident.
- You or your dependents have a change in income or household status that affects your eligibility for tax credits or cost-sharing reductions.
- You permanently move into a new coverage area where you have access to additional health insurance plans.
- If you’re a Native American, you’re allowed to change plans within the Exchange once a month.
Washington’s Apple Health (Medicaid) enrollment is year-round. If you think you might qualify, go to www.wahealthplanfinder.org.
“Thousands of people have signed up so far, but we know that not everyone may be paying attention to the approaching deadline,” said Kreidler. “The last thing we want is for someone to wake up on April 1 and realize they will have to wait until next November to sign up for coverage that starts in 2015.”