As of April 1, open enrollment in the health care exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act ended for 2014. While much of the public cannot apply for coverage again until the 2015 exchanges open on November 15, individuals experiencing a qualifying life event can still enroll in an insurance plan through the marketplace.
The individual mandate portion of the ACA requires most individuals to have a health insurance policy that provides the minimum coverage required by the act. If coverage is not obtained, a penalty must be paid at income tax filing time. In order to ensure people experiencing major life events remain covered throughout the calendar year, the private coverage options in the marketplace remain accessible.
Qualifying life events, according to healthcare.gov, include losing job-based health care coverage, marriage, having a baby, adopting a child and moving outside of the coverage area of an existing insurance policy. Individuals who earn citizenship or leave incarceration may also sign-up for private coverage through the exchange at any time.
The marketplace access also extends to applying for a government subsidy, which is offered to individuals and families with incomes between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, to cover part of an insurance plan's cost. The subsidy is then applied to an insurance premium on a monthly basis or sent at the end of the year as a federal income tax refund.
Joshua Sanford at Morehouse Community Medical Centers, Inc. has been helping individuals sort through their coverage options now that open enrollment has ended.
“We have had quite a few people come in with loss of coverage,” Sanford said.
Some have lost their insurance because of employer changes while others have faced an increase in premium payments and are looking for new coverage or subsidies.
The center is also still processing new enrollees who couldn't complete an online application before the marketplace closed as well as individuals who attempted to make a sign-up appointment when the center had no remaining openings prior to the deadline.
“People who didn't have a profile can still come in,” Sanford said.
Healthcare.gov serves as the online insurance marketplace for citizens of Louisiana since a state-based exchange was not created. Individuals who prefer to visit an office can contact the Morehouse Community Medical Center for additional information.