Back in 2014 when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into full effect, individuals had six months to enroll. Then the following year, people only had three months; however, the government ended up extending the open enrollment deadline. That year they also assisted people during the tax season who didn’t know or understand why they were being penalized. So in 2015, people had about four and a half months to enroll. For the last two years, people only had three months to apply for qualified health coverage during the open enrollment. The open enrollment period started November 1st and lasted until the end of January. Now, the upcoming enrollment period will be slashed in half.
For the 2018 plan year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is shortening the open enrollment period (OEP). It will start November 1, 2017 and end December 15, 2017. All plans purchased at this time will be effective January 1st; that is the only effective date that they will be offering from now on. This timeframe coincides with the Annual Election Period (AEP), which is the Medicare enrollment period. AEP lasts from October 15th until December 7th. So not only does this CMS ruling reduce the amount of time to enroll in health coverage, but it also occurs during another busy enrollment period.
What Does a Shorter Open Enrollment Period Mean for Agents and Consumers?
Because of this change, insurance agents, who work both the individual market, as well as the senior Medicare market, will be pressed for time to get their clients enrolled. For consumers, this means getting enrolled as soon as possible. If individuals procrastinate, they may not be able to rely on their agent to assist them because agents may be overwhelmed with client applications. In some cases, agents are deciding to pull out of the individual health market altogether. Meaning, the agent that helped you last year may not be available this time around. Therefore, it’s important to get in contact with your agent prior to the enrollment period. You need to ensure they’ll be available; if not, then they may be able to refer you to another agent or agency that can help.
Bottom line: With so many changes occurring this year – the open enrollment only comprising one of many changes – it’s important to have an agent you know and trust who can guide you through your healthcare decisions. They’ll keep you informed of current and future changes to the individual market. In addition to contacting an agent, make sure you mark on your calendar the start of open enrollment – November 1st. As soon as it opens, you want to apply as soon as possible. With only six weeks to enroll, you can’t afford to procrastinate.
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