The deadline is approaching for employees and clients to sign up for individual coverage through the "ObamaCare" health insurance exchanges. For example, employees wanting coverage on January 1st need to sign up with HealthCare.gov by December 23rd. Here is a quick checklist to share with employees and clients on efficiently signing up for individual coverage through the health insurance exchanges.
Step 1: Gather Your Paperwork
Individual health insurance applications no longer ask medical history questions, but the application will ask financial questions to qualify you for the premium tax credits. So for many people, filling out an individual application will feel like filing income taxes.
To fill out the application most efficiently, have these types of papers handy (for yourself and others in your household):
- Personal information (date of birth, SS#, etc)
- Pay stubs
- Other income statements
- W-2 forms
- Prior tax returns
- Current insurance information such as how you are insured (employer, Medicaid, individual health insurance, etc.)
- Payment information, such as a credit card or bank draft (ACH) information
It may also be helpful to have the notice you received from your employer about the exchanges and new coverage options.
Step 2: Fill Out An Application
You can complete an application online or paper form. You will only have to fill out one application, and from there your eligibility for tax credits and subsides will be determined.
Step 3: Pick a Plan
Once you fill out an application, you can browse and pick a plan. With some people comparing more than 100 plans, this is often the step that takes the most time, and where working with a health insurance broker can be very helpful. Plans are categorized by "metallic tiers" to help compare plans with similar coverage levels.
Step 4: Pay the Premium
Many of the health insurance exchanges are currently referring consumers to the insurance companies for payment, since each issuer can set their own deadline and payment requirement. Some people will get bills in the mail and others are able to pay their premiums over the phone or on the insurer’s website.
Tip: Call the insurance company to double check your payment was received and to confirm your coverage. While the health insurance exchange websites may be working better, government officials are still working on some back-end issues related to transmitting enrollment information to the insurance companies.
A Few More Resources to Help
Getting an individual health insurance plan in 2014 is simpler than it used to be. However, it's still not as straight forward as buying a plane ticket online. And, many employees will be purchasing an individual or family plan for the first time (without the direct involvement of their employer), so it may be stressful or confusing for some employees.
For this reason, it is recommended to work with a licensed health insurance agent or broker to help with selecting and applying for health insurance.
Also, in every state there are trained and certified people ready to help you understand and get enrolled. Depending on the state, they may be referred to by different names such as:
- Application assistors, or in-person assistors
- Certified application counselors
- Government agencies, such as State Medicaid and CHIP offices
See related resources for employees and clients:
Important Dates for Avoiding the Individual Mandate Penalty (blog article)
How to Buy Individual Health Insurance (PDF slipsheet)