It’s pretty scary out there right now. If you don’t have health insurance and you don’t live in one of the 12 states that have opened special enrollment periods in response to the novel coronavirus, you still may be able to apply for a plan. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) there are certain qualifying life events that trigger a special enrollment period. Okay, so what does that mean? A qualifying event is just insurance-speak for certain changes in your life, such as a marriage, the loss of a job, or a move to another state, and a special enrollment period is a 60-day window of time during which you can sign up for new insurance or change insurance plans — outside of open enrollment.
The most common event millions of Americans are experiencing right now is loss of coverage due to job loss According to a recent article by CNBC, “Economists at the Fed’s St. Louis district project total employment reductions of 47 million, which would translate to a 32.1% unemployment rate, according to a recent analysis of how bad things could get.” To date, more than 3 million people have already filed job loss claims. In most cases, COBRA is too expensive an option, so your state marketplace may provide better priced options. The average monthly premium after tax credits last enrollment period was $80.
Losing a job, though, isn’t the only life event that opens a special enrollment window. Some of the other common events include:
- Moving to another county or zip code (where different plans are available)
- Divorce or separation (if it causes you to lose your coverage)
- Surviving domestic violence
- Having a baby or adopting a child (varies from state to state)
- Had processing errors with your enrollment
- Had a change in immigration status
- Had a change in household income that affects your eligibility for tax credits
As with most things, there are some exceptions. With some types of coverage, you can enroll anytime. Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) don’t limit their enrollment periods. You can apply for either program at any time during the year. If you think you might qualify for Medicaid or CHIP due to changes in income, apply on healthcare.gov or your state’s marketplace.