There was a study reported this morning that 75% of Californians know 'little or nothing' about health care reform. Click here for a brief article about this. In talking to clients lately, it's truly amazing. As an agent, and in speaking with other agents, we're reading stuff day in and day out. I don't expect the average non 'insurance geek' to do this but I'll share one area in particular people need to know about.
I keep hearing people talk about health care reform, Obamacare, taking effect October 1. Well, depends on what you mean. To me, a part of it is, but actual effective dates for coverage isn't until January 1, 2014. This October 1 stuff is just when open enrollment starts.
Buying health insurance as an individual--the timing on when you can do this is going to change radically from what you've been used to. Let me try to explain the open enrollment stuff. This first year, from 10/1 – 12/31 people can enroll in coverage, on or off the ‘exchange’ to be effective 1/1/14. Because this is the beginning, the first shot at this type of set up, we will have a few extra months as an open enrollment. If you apply before 1/15/14, you’ll be effective 2/1/14. Before 2/15/14, you’ll be effective 3/1/14, then before 3/15/14, effective 4/1/14 and then you’re ‘locked’ in that plan for the rest of the year. Subsequent years, it will work more like a job based open enrollment, where you’ll have mid October to early December to make a plan change that will last for the following year. So you’re not locked in to this initial selection forever. This of course is all subject to modification down the line depending on how this all works…..but coverage will be guaranteed issue, with no regard to pre-existing conditions.
If you have a ‘qualifying event,’ like losing work related coverage, COBRA ending, getting married, then you can enroll in an individual plan outside of open enrollment. But if you just decide to drop coverage, you’ll be shut out until the following open enrollment. And if you are eligible for a subsidy, you MUST buy through the exchange. You can still use an independent agent to evaluate things, but they have to be certified with Covered California, the California ‘exchange’ in order to sell them.
Right now, NO AGENT is 'certified' to sell exchange plans as the Exchange is still trying to get its agent certification program going. We thought that would happen Monday, but not quite. So once again, as a Certified Healthcare Reform Specialist (CHRS), Stay tuned!