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Small Business Employee Benefits and HR Blog

Health Insurance Exchange FAQ: When do I Need to Enroll?

calendar December 15 resized 600The Individual Health Insurance Exchanges are open for enrollment today, October 1. Plans bought through the Exchange can start covering care as early as January 1, 2014. That gives employees three months to shop online for an insurance plan to fit their needs and enroll in a plan. This is plenty of time, and there should be no problem for most employees to get insured within this time frame. In fact, employees might want to wait to shop until the Exchanges have been up and running for a few weeks and the websites kinks have been sorted out.

One important deadline to note, however, is that for policies going into effect January 1, the first month’s premium must be paid by December 15.

Open Enrollment through March 31, 2014

For the first open enrollment period of the Individual Health Insurance Exchange, employees who are enrolling now for coverage starting January 1, 2014 will want to plan to apply, enroll, and pay their premium by December 15. However, even if that December 15 deadline is missed, open enrollment runs through March 31, 2014. So, employees will still be able to get coverage, though it means that coverage will start later than January 1, 2014.

How to Enroll through the Online Exchanges

The Federal government is running the Health Insurance Exchange websites for 34 states (or partnering with the state), and 16 states are running their own Exchanges. The enrollment process may vary slightly from state to state, but generally the process will require the following steps:

  1. Set up an Exchange ("Marketplace") account
  2. Fill out an eligibility application
  3. Compare plan options
  4. Enroll in a plan
  5. Pay for the plan

To see a detailed description on how to use the online health insurance exchanges, see: How to Sign Up for Individual Health Insurance via the Marketplaces

Information Needed to Enroll in an Exchange Plan

When applying for an Exchange plan, the following pieces of information will be needed:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Email address
  • ZIP code
  • Estimated 2014 income
  • Information on household members and whether they file taxes jointly or individually
  • Tobacco use
  • Job status (employed, recently changed jobs, etc)

Tip: Make sure that you have all of this information gathered before you start to set up an account. Federal officials spent 35 minutes demonstrating how the process would work for a family of 3 shopping for coverage. The Health Insurance Exchanges do not require the consumer to provide any health information, other than tobacco use.

Questions about enrolling in a health insurance exchange plan? Leave a comment below.

How to Buy Individual Health Insurance Slipsheet