The open enrollment period for federal and private insurance plans lasts throughout late fall. Whether you missed open enrollment or you’re a new hire under a 90-day waiting period, the fact of the matter is you need health insurance.
Young adults have about a 5% chance of incurring tens of thousands of dollars in medical expenses. The odds increase as you grow older. Even during a short period, gambling on life insurance could cost you a large fortune.
Protect your health and your wallet. Here are some health insurance alternatives if you missed open enrollment.
1. Short-Term Health Insurance
Short-term insurance companies operate in the majority of US states. They’re the perfect option when you’re between plans, waiting on open enrollment, or need proof of insurance for a quick trip abroad. That said, short-term health insurance plans are much different than those you can find through your employer or the federal marketplace.
So what are the differences? Federal and employer insurance plans require a bare minimum amount of coverage according to the Affordable Care Act. This is known as minimum essential coverage.
But short-term health insurance doesn’t have to abide by these rules. Still, these insurance plans often cover emergencies and doctor visits. They’re an invaluable buffer in case something goes wrong while you’re uninsured.
The best part about short-term health insurance is you can drop it whenever you want. You’ll also have more versatility when it comes to choosing a plan that’s right for you. Usually, employer pickings are slim.
If you’re thinking about pursuing a short-term health insurance plan, you should know that coverage, premiums, and copays can vary wildly. That’s why it’s important you compare and contrast those that fit within your budget.
Not sure where to start? Check out these plans and see how short-term health insurance differs from traditional coverage.
2. Qualifying Events
If you missed open enrollment, you aren’t completely barred from taking advantage of a new insurance plan. However, you’ll need to have something known as a qualifying event. These are special life transitions that allow you to sign up for a health insurance plan even after open enrollment.
Let’s look at some common types of qualifying events:
Sometimes an explicit qualifying event doesn’t allow you to sign up for a new health plan. This typically occurs when the event doesn’t change your health insurance situation.
For example, a divorce may not be a qualifying event if you still have access to the same health insurance. This could happen if you get insurance through your own plan rather than a spouse’s.
If a qualifying event occurs, you’ll have two months to find a new health insurance plan. Missing this special enrollment period means you’ll have to wait for open enrollment to begin or go with some alternatives to health insurance.
Please note that you should not pursue a qualifying event just to gain health insurance coverage. Instead, pursue off-exchange health insurance until open enrollment begins.
No matter where you live in the US, you have access to Medicaid programs. These are designed to provide insurance coverage for low-income families. Medicaid is not related to Medicare in any way, and you can qualify for Medicaid even at a young age.
Medicaid does not have an open enrollment period. As long as you qualify for your state’s program, you can apply at any time. Medicaid is the best option for those who are currently unemployed and missed open enrollment in the federal marketplace.
Not sure if you qualify? Check out the official Medicaid tool.
To apply for Medicaid, you can go through either the health insurance marketplace or your state’s agency. Medicaid covers a wide array of different health expenses and usually comes without a premium. If you qualify, it’s one of the best health insurance options available.
CHIP is similar to Medicaid and covers children in low-income households. If you have a family in need of insurance, see if you qualify for either of these options.
4. Healthcare Sharing Ministries
If you have a religious affiliation, you may be able to find coverage through your place of worship. Members of the faith pay into the plan. It’s less regimented than tradition, federal, or short-term insurance as some members may directly send payments to those in need.
Just like short-term health insurance, healthcare sharing ministries don’t have to provide minimum essential coverage. They also aren’t under any legal requirement to handle medical claims for other members.
In most situations, you’ll find that healthcare sharing ministries are not the safest providers of insurance coverage. However, they are health insurance alternatives when you’re in desperate need.
Some people have turned to these ministries as they disagree with coverage found in traditional plans, such as contraception. Unless this is a large drawing point for you, then you probably won’t use a sharing ministry as anything more than a stopgap measure.
Health Insurance Alternatives: Which Is Right for You?
If you don’t qualify for Medicaid and aren’t anticipating a qualifying event, then that leaves two options of health insurance alternatives. Most people will likely lean towards short-term insurance coverage. Healthcare sharing ministries offer less legal protection, so make sure you trust your religious institution before giving it a try.
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