The Obama administration has granted a brief reprieve for those who started to enroll in the Health Insurance Marketplace prior to the March 31 open enrollment deadline.
If you tried to enroll prior to March 31 but didn't finish your application in time, you can still get coverage for 2014 if you complete your enrollment by April 15, according to Healthcare.gov, the official website of the Health Insurance Marketplace.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) represents an effort to provide more affordable health coverage for U.S. citizens and legal residents. Passed by Congress in 2010 and signed into law by President Barack Obama, the ACA has major provisions that take effect this year.
The federal healthcare law created the Health Insurance Marketplace, where consumers can compare varying levels of plans. Beginning this year, you will have to pay a tax penalty if you don't enroll in an ACA-compliant plan for at least nine months and do not qualify for an exemption.
Many Americans scrambled to complete their coverage applications before the March 31 deadline for Marketplace enrollment.
Here are the reasons you might not have finished your Marketplace enrollment by the March deadline, according to Healthcare.gov:
- Heavy traffic to the website or call center prevented you from starting or completing your application.
- Maintenance periods kept you from using the site.
- Error screens or similar technical issues blocked you from accessing the site.
- You attempted to get an appointment with a "Navigator" or other application assister but they didn't have times available before the deadline. Or you were working with an assister but didn't finish enrolling in time.
- You mailed an application but didn't get an eligibility result before the deadline.
What Do I Do Next if I Started an Incomplete Application?
If you didn't complete your application due to a reason like those previously mentioned, you can continue by:
- Logging into your Marketplace application and continuing the enrollment process by picking up where you left off. Before you finish enrolling, you'll see a statement that you attempted to enroll prior to March 31 and didn't finish. You're confirming that statement if you continue past that point.
- Contact the Marketplace Call Center at 1-(800)-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325). Be sure to tell the customer service rep that you tried to enroll before March 31 as that person can help you finish enrolling by phone. This phone option is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You must complete your enrollment by April 15 to get coverage for 2014, and your coverage will begin on May 1 if you enroll by April 15. If you enroll in this manner and your coverage begins on May 1, you won't need to pay the "individual mandate" fee for the months of 2014 that you didn't have health coverage.
Short Term Medical Insurance Could be a Viable Option
As you consider completing your Marketplace application, you might also want to consider a different option: short-term medical (STM) insurance.
Short-term medical policies typically last from one month to 364 days and are usually purchased by people looking to bridge gaps in health coverage. They tend to have more limited benefits than ACA plans because they are not subject to the ten essential requirements of ACA-compliant plans.
However, the tradeoff is that STM plans tend to be cheaper due to the reduced benefits. If you don't need all the benefits offered by an ACA-compliant plan, then an STM plan might be a viable option for you until the open enrollment period. The next open enrollment period is expected to run from November 15, 2014-January 15, 2015.