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Monday, March 24, 2014

Understanding Obamacare: Open Enrollment Period Ends March 31

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Question: Do I have to be concerned about the end of the open enrollment period on March 31 if I don’t buy an individual policy?

Answer: Open enrollment in the Affordable Care Act is scheduled to end on March 31, and the reason for that makes sense. We want to ensure that people have the internal drive and responsibility to enroll in health coverage early before they get sick or injured. But this open enrollment period, which ends on Monday, doesn’t apply to everyone.

If you have not yet signed up for health coverage and currently are uninsured, then the deadline for you is Monday, March 31. But the rules are different if you have coverage now, if you’re looking for small group coverage for your business or nonprofit, if you’re eligible for BadgerCare or if you are being kicked off of BadgerCare at the end of the month.

If you have health insurance or have signed up for individual coverage by March 31, you are covered. And if you need to change coverage because your income and family size changes, or if you move, for example, you have the freedom to do so.

For those eligible for BadgerCare, or those who at any point become eligible for it, you may sign up for this affordable coverage at any time of year. Likewise, small and large businesses, nonprofits, churches and unions may enroll any time of year. And if you ever lose your coverage, whether it’s due to being kicked off of BadgerCare or leaving your job, you will have 60 days to sign up at healthcare.gov no matter what time of the year it happens.

The last week of open enrollment means we all must do our part to get coverage and ensure others have it too, both for moral and economic reasons. A healthy democracy prospers with a healthy citizenry. Everyone should visit healthcare.gov before March 31, to see their options.  

—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.