This year, the Open Enrollment period to sign up for a policy through the Health Insurance Marketplace was much shorter than in the past. The deadline for enrollment on the Federal exchange was December 15. (Many state run exchanges were open longer.) Previously, you had well into January to choose a plan. It’s likely that many people were unaware of the change and missed their chance to enroll in an insurance policy.
Instead of taking the risk of going without insurance, there are a few alternatives to get some form of coverage after the Open Enrollment deadline.
1. Find out if you qualify for Special Enrollment
If you’ve experienced a major life event, you may be able to enroll in a plan outside of the Open Enrollment period. You can qualify for Special Enrollment in these situations:
- You got married.
- You had a baby or adopted a child.
- You divorced or separated from your spouse and lost your insurance coverage.
- You moved to a new home with a different ZIP code than your old residence.
- You lost your job, either by resigning or being let go, and lost your insurance policy.
These life events must occur within the past 60 days for you to be eligible for Special Enrollment. If you do qualify, you can complete a questionnaire and choose a plan through a designated Special Enrollment section of healthcare.gov.
2. See if your parents’ insurance will cover you
If you are under the age of 26, your parents may be able to add you to their own insurance policies. If their insurance is through an employer, they can add you during the plan’s enrollment period. To do so, they just have to contact their insurance company. However, keep in mind that adding you to their plan will cause your parents’ insurance premiums to increase, sometimes by hundreds of dollars a month. Make sure you and your parents are comfortable with the cost and discuss who is responsible for the additional fees.
3. Take on a part-time job
Another way to get health insurance — and boost your income — is to take on a part-time job. Some companies, including big names like Starbucks, Whole Foods, and Lowe’s, offer comprehensive insurance benefits to part-time employees.
Some of them require you to work for a certain amount of time before you’re eligible for benefits, but others allow you to enroll in an insurance policy on your first day. As an added bonus, your earnings from your part-time job can cover your share of health care costs and help bulk up your savings.
4. Research state or federal programs
All states offer Medicaid programs that provide coverage for millions, but the rules can vary from state to state. In general, Medicaid is designed for individuals who have a low-income, or are disabled, elderly, or pregnant. Children can also qualify for Medicaid coverage.
If you have children and they are not eligible for Medicaid, you may be able to get them insurance through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Getting them coverage through CHIP, even if you go without insurance, can help you save money on their medical costs.
5. Get a short-term insurance plan
If you don’t qualify for other forms of health insurance, one thing to consider is enrolling in a short-term plan. Short-term plans are offered by private insurance companies and provide coverage in emergency situations or catastrophic events. While not as ideal as having a regular health insurance policy, a short-term plan can be an important safeguard in a pinch.
If you don’t know where to start, you can find short-term and catastrophic insurance plans by contacting an insurance broker. You can find brokers near you through the National Association of Health Underwriters database.