People who learned that their health insurance plans are going to be canceled at the end of the year have some new options for coverage.
They now can go without insurance without being penalized, or they can sign up for a catastrophic plan, which was previously an option only for people younger than 30. As before, they can still sign up for a non-catastrophic health insurance plan.
Thursday evening the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a bulletin announcing the change just days before the Dec. 23 deadline for enrolling for coverage that starts Jan. 1.
This is the second significant policy change made by the Obama Administration to help people whose plans were canceled, often because they did not provide the more robust benefits required by the Affordable Care Act. In November, President Obama announced that states would have the option of asking insurers to revive canceled health-insurance plans, but Washington’s insurance commissioner immediately nixed the idea.
In Washington, most of the 290,000 people covered by individual plans — roughly 4 percent of the population — learned their plans were being canceled.
Previously, these folks had the option of moving to a plan recommended by their insurance company, or seeking a new plan through the state’s health insurance exchange, called Washington Healthplanfinder, or buying a plan from the individual insurance market. They could also go without, and likely face a tax penalty. (See this Seattle Times story for tips on getting coverage.)
With Thursday’s announcement, they have more decisions to make, and here are the new options:
- If you want to be uninsured without penalty, or if you’re age 30 or older and want a catastrophic plan, you must fill out a hardship exemption form and provide documentation showing your plan was canceled, such as a copy of cancellation notification letter from your insurer.
- If you signed up for a plan through Healthplanfinder and have made your first payment, you can switch or cancel your plan until 11:59 p.m. Monday (Dec. 23). Your payment will be refunded if you cancel.
- If you signed up for a plan through an insurance company or broker, contact them to find out if and how you can change or cancel your plan.
- If you had a plan outside the exchange and want to move to a catastrophic plan, in addition to filling out a hardship exemption and canceling your plan, you must also enroll with the exchange to buy the catastrophic plan.
And if you do have a plan you like, by all means, keep it.