Making Sense of Healthcare Insurance Extensions

Kelli Vorndran
Making Sense of Healthcare Insurance Extensions

You aren't alone if the constant changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) deadlines are making you feel confused. Difficulties with the website, program rollouts, and uncertainty about levels of coverage have many American consumers unsure where to begin.

A recent development is the extension of the deadline for switching from non-ACA compliant policies to ones that meet the ten essential requirements for marketplace plans.

Beginning in October, insurance companies were set to start cancelling health policies that didn't meet these criteria, which would force consumers to reassess their options. The White House has now officially extended the deadline for switching from a non-compliant policy for two more years.

What It Means for You

The extension provides you with more time to determine your ideal healthcare preferences. Your options include:

  • Maintaining Your Non-Compliant Plan — Now that an additional two years are permitted, if you're happy with your current policy, you can choose to keep it. However, the clock is still ticking because you'll still need to research options for switching when the new deadline approaches. If you want to go with the status quo instead, it's allowed.

  • Enroll in an ACA Plan — If you've been considering switching to an ACA- approved plan, open enrollment in the Marketplace closed on March 31. The next enrollment period doesn't begin until November. If you enrolled before March 15, your policy will begin on April 1. If you purchased between March 16 and March 31, the policy will start on May 1. ACA plans may be more expensive than what you have now, but the coverage could be better. If you're tired of balancing between the constantly changing options, enroll in an ACA plan.

  • Buy Short-Term Medical (STM) Insurance — STM is generally purchased by consumers going through a job transition and in need of temporary coverage. But STM is also an option if:

    • You're a student transitioning from a parent's plan.
    • You're a retiree in need of coverage before enrolling in Medicare.
    • You're waiting for new insurance to begin.

Short-term medical plans don't meet the ten essential requirements noted above, and the coverage isn't comprehensive. Pre-existing conditions, maternity care, and other mandatory features of ACA plans aren't included. And enrolling in an STM policy would require you to pay a penalty of up to $95 (or 1% of your annual income, whichever is higher) in 2014 — a number that is set to increase in 2015 and 2016.

Determining the best insurance option for you and your family isn't easy. Consider your current situation and what best meets your budget and coverage needs.

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