by Brooke Jarchow
Open Enrollment, the period of time when Americans can get health insurance regardless of their health history, officially ends January 31, 2017. However, December 15, 2016 is the most important date to remember for securing coverage in 2017. If you enroll in a health plan on or before December 15, your coverage can start as early as January 1, 2017.
However, those who enroll any time after December 15 will not be covered immediately in the New Year. If you enroll or makes changes to your plan after December 15, your new plan may not take effect until as late as March 2017. You can shop for and compare plans and renew or change coverage for 2017 now.
Just as important as securing coverage before December 15 is to make sure you pay your first premium. In order to activate coverage, you must pay your premium. In order to pay your premium, first confirm that your insurance application is complete. Once you have completed your application, you must pay your first month’s premium to your insurance provider. It is acceptable to pay your first month’s premium with a credit card, but you will also need to provide banking information for future premium payments.
If you fail to make your monthly premium payments, you could lose coverage for the rest of the year. Usually, there is a 90-day grace period for a missed premium payment depending on the plan. If you lose coverage because of a missed premium payment, it is important to remember that you will not qualify for the Special Enrollment Period.
The only other way to enroll or change your plan after the January 31 deadline is if you qualify for the Special Enrollment Period. The Special Enrollment Period (SEP) is a time outside the yearly Open Enrollment Period where individuals who have experienced certain life events can sign up for health insurance. Qualifying Life Events include losing health coverage, moving, getting married, having a baby, or adopting a child. Typically, an individual has 60 days following the Qualifying Life Event to enroll in an a plan.
In short, to ensure you and your family are covered immediately, enroll and pay your first month’s premium before December 15, 2016.