Published: June 9th, 2014
If you're shopping for health insurance on the federal marketplace or your state's health insurance exchange, then you've probably noticed that you have to sign up during a certain time period. The Affordable Care Act mandates that every eligible American citizen enroll in a qualified health plan by a certain date each year, or what is known as the Open Enrollment Period. This years open-enrollment period starts on November 1st, 2018, and runs through December 15th, 2018. That's approximately 45 days for more than 20 million Americans to compare their current options, and then if they decide to change plans, enroll in a different plan. If you're enrolling in an Obamacare plan for the first time, then you're starting from scratch.
How you sign up for coverage depends on your needs. While "Obamacare" in and of itself is not insurance, when people reference "signing up for Obamacare," they usually mean insurance that you get from the marketplace, or signing up for a health insurance plan that is compliant with the regulations set by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Our goal is to help you understand how to sign up for health care coverage using this newly created system under the ACA.
Documents That You'll Need To Sign Up For Obamacare
When you enroll in any type of insurance, you'll have to provide information related to your household, age, income and other characteristics so that insurers know how to price your plan options. New regulations prevent discrimination based on pre-existing conditions and gender, but you'll still have to give potential insurers some details about your life. The same holds true on the marketplace. Here are a few things that you may need to have in front of you when you first sign up:
- Basics like name, date of birth and home address
- Information about your household, including your spouse and dependents
- Information on everyone who's applying for coverage, including social security numbers for everyone on the application
- Income and employer information for every applicant
- An estimate of your annual income for the next tax year
- Information about how you file your taxes
- Policy numbers for any coverage that you already have
These are the basics that you'll need, but there may be additional documentation required. For instance, if you're a legal immigrant, then you'll need to provide your immigration documents. If you're using a broker or agent to help you enroll, then you'll need to provide that person's information as well.
How to Sign Up On The Marketplace (Healthcare.gov)
Once you've gathered your documents and information together, you can check out the HealthCare.gov website to get started.
You have four options for using the marketplace to sign up for health insurance. You can complete the process entirely online, call the customer service line, mail in an application to get started, or visit a local broker or agent for assistance. Mailed-in applications only get the ball rolling. You can't actually enroll in health insurance by mail, but once you send in the initial application. That said, we really don't advise anyone sign up for health insurance through the mail. There's many options, including using an alternative to HC.gov, the government exchange.
You can even work with a licensed health insurance professional over the phone, or locally to complete the process.
Using the website makes enrollment quicker, but if you're more comfortable speaking with a customer service representative, then choose the phone route. Either way, your eligibility results are instant. That means that if you qualify for cost assistance, then you'll know right away if you use the website or the phone service. When you sign up online or by phone, you'll be guided step by step through the process. Phone service is available 24/7, but there are higher call volume times that may delay your application. For the 2018 - 2019 enrollment season, there may be a more limited number of HC.gov phone reps able to handle calls. So again, if you need to speak with a licensed insurance professional, you can do so by using the toll free number found within this website.
What If You Prefer To Sign Up Outside Of The Government Exchange?
You can use the form below starting on November 1st, 2018 through December 15th, 2018. That will take you though the same enrollment process that HC.gov does. You will have access to the exact same plans, as well as the exact same pricing. Obamacare plan pricing is regulated, so there really can't be any true price difference from the government exchange or a private broker.
Most people have to obtain health insurance by law, but there are some exceptions to the rule. For instance, people who are incarcerated or non-legal residents won't have to buy insurance. You also don't have to sign up if you're a member of a federally recognized Native American tribe or you participate in an approved health care sharing ministry.
There are also exceptions to the deadline requirement for certain situations. The government recognizes that devastating life events or significant changes to your circumstances can interfere with your ability to sign up for coverage. If you experience a qualifying life event, then you may be able to sign up for health insurance outside of open enrollment. You only get 60 days from the date of the event to enroll; after that, you'll be subject to the same penalties as everyone else.