Marketplace enrollment still available to some consumers
by Anna Oakes
The open enrollment period for plans available through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace ended March 31, but some people may still be eligible to sign up.
Consumers with a "qualifying life event," a health plan up for renewal or who are currently receiving COBRA coverage are eligible to sign up for Marketplace plans via a special enrollment period, according to Eric Schneider, outreach and eligibility specialist for High Country Community Health.
Qualifying life events include the loss of employer-based coverage due to a dropped policy, job loss or divorce; a change in household size due to marriage, birth, etc.; and relocation, even within state lines.
"For those already enrolled in coverage through the Marketplace, a special enrollment period can generally be triggered through relocation, change in household size, and in some cases, income as well," Schneider said.
COBRA is the temporary federal health insurance plan offered to workers and their families who lose their health benefits due to job loss, a reduction in work hours, a transition between jobs and other circumstances.
Until July 1, those currently receiving COBRA coverage can terminate COBRA and be granted a special enrollment period to enroll in a Marketplace plan.
Normally outside of an open enrollment period, consumers would have to decline an offer for COBRA coverage and receive a special enrollment period based on lost employer coverage or wait until COBRA coverage is exhausted to receive the special enrollment period.
"Consumers should call the Call Center and inform representatives that they are calling about their COBRA benefits and the Marketplace," according to guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In addition, consumers whose health insurance plans purchased outside of the Marketplace are coming up for renewal are also eligible to shop the Marketplace through a special enrollment period. Consumers will have 60 days from the renewal date to select a qualified health plan in the Marketplace. These individuals should indicate "loss of other coverage" on their Marketplace application.
A special enrollment period will also be granted individuals beginning or concluding a term of service with AmeriCorps, VISTA or the National Civilian Community Corps.
Schneider said individuals who need to file a hardship exemption to avoid a tax penalty for not having insurance can still do so. Individuals and families with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level or without access to coverage at or below 8 percent of household income may receive a hardship exemption.
The 2014 federal poverty guideline is $11,670 for a single person or $23,850 for a family of four.
The next open enrollment period is Nov. 15, 2014, through Jan. 15, 2015.
"I will continue to be assisting people who need help getting coverage via special enrollment periods, need to file exemptions or just want general information," Schneider said.
For more information about the Health Insurance Marketplace, visit http://www.healthcare.gov or call Schneider at (828) 773-7297.