Don’t get stuck without coverage

By Erin GleasonGroup-pic-fb

The end of the open enrollment period on March 31st marks a first in the rollout of the new healthcare law.  After March, consumers will no longer be able to buy health insurance in 2014 that meets the new government standards of the Affordable Care Act.  This means that qualified plans, like those sold by big-name carriers in the region like Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Rocky Mountain Health Plans, will not be available after March 31st and anyone who doesn’t have coverage in place will have to pay a penalty on their 2014 taxes.

“Everyone knows about the tax penalty if you don’t have insurance, or asks questions about it,” says Helen Brown, Financial Counselor with Yampa Valley Medical Center and certified navigator for the state’s health insurance marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado.  As for the part of the law that makes insurance unavailable after the end of March, Brown says it’s not completely clear to most people.   “We continue to educate the community about what the law means for each individual.”

With the clock ticking, Brown encourages consumers to get started early.  “Don’t wait until the last week, because it makes it more difficult to do the application,” she says, citing long wait times and difficulty in scheduling an appointment.

Greg Neal of Western Slope Health Insurance in Craig, like many health insurance brokers, worry his clients will think insurance still works like it did last year, before the state marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado, opened.  “A lot of people are confused and believe they will have access to insurance after March 31st, but the reality is that insurance will only be available in very special circumstances.”

The circumstances that would allow someone to buy insurance after March are usually major life events, like gaining citizenship or moving to Colorado.  There will still be some insurance available from non-qualified plans, but these plans may be more expensive and offer fewer benefits, and consumers will still have to pay the penalty.

“Insurance works so differently than what people were able to buy before” Neal says.  “Don’t be intimidated by the process.  Get in touch with a broker or an Assistance Site to get informed on the new policies.”  Otherwise, some people may miss out on coverage for 2014.

Erin Gleason is the Community & Small Business Health Insurance Coordinator for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.

March 15th – Deadline to apply for insurance starting April 1
March 31st – End of open enrollment for 2014 insurance, deadline for applying for insurance for coverage in 2014
November 15th – Proposed Open Enrollment begins for 2015 Health Insurance
December 15th – Deadline for January 1, 2015 Insurance
January 15th – End of Proposed Open Enrollment for 2015
January 1st – 2015 Connect for Health Colorado Insurance Coverage Begins

Connect for Health Colorado Assistance Sites (Routt County)
For help getting started, call your health insurance broker or one of the Connect for Health Colorado Assistance Sites:
Routt County Department of Human Services: 970-870-5271
Yampa Valley Medical Center: 970-879-1322
Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association: 970-871-7638

Connect for Health Colorado Assistance Sites (Moffat County)
For help getting started, call your health insurance broker or one of the Connect for Health Colorado Assistance Sites:
Moffat County Social Services: 970-824-8282 ext. 2030
Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association: 970-871-7324

Life-change Events:
Life-Change Events that qualify you for coverage after March:
•    Losing your current insurance plan
•    Employer-sponsored coverage becomes unaffordable
•    Gain of Citizenship or Immigration status
•    Change in incarceration status
•    Moved to Colorado
•    A customer demonstrates that their health plan has substantially violated a provision of its contract

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