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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Understanding Obamacare: You Can Change Your Insurance Plan During Open Enrollment

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Question: Is it too late to change my plan on healthcare.gov?

Answer: Did you purchase an insurance plan before realizing you didn’t like some aspect of it? Perhaps you realized you prefer a different network or deductible? That’s OK! During Open Enrollment, which ends March 31, you have the chance to change your plan after you buy it but before coverage starts. To change your purchased plan before it starts, call the marketplace hotline at 1-800-318-2596 or at healthcare.gov. That period—after you signed up but before coverage starts—is the easiest time in which to change coverage.

But if you purchased a plan and coverage has already started then the rules are different. While some insurers allow customers to change plans anytime during the year within the same company, the Affordable Care Act usually only allows people to change their plan during the year when they experience a major life event. These events include getting married, having a child, moving to a new area, losing health coverage or a change in income. If any of these events happen you may change health coverage at healthcare.gov throughout the year.

Why these rules? Because we want to ensure responsibility. We want consumers to purchase coverage before they need it, and we don’t want consumers to purchase the lowest-cost option until the moment they’re sick and then switch to the highest benefit plan. That’s not fair to those who’ve followed the rules. Likewise, failure to pay your premiums may make you ineligible for tax credits until next enrollment period.

So if you need to change plans, you may still have the power to do so. Otherwise if events in your life require you to change coverage, you have the freedom to access it at healthcare.gov when you need it.

—Kevin Kane, lead organizer, Citizen Action of Wisconsin

The Shepherd Express and Citizen Action of Wisconsin will answer questions about the Affordable Care Act during its implementation. Got a question? Email editor@shepex.com.