Photo by Protocol Photography, from Flickr’s The Commons.
This season the holidays just kept on giving. Seemingly each day last month, our email in boxes at HealthCare Checkup were stuffed with yet another surprise in the form of new enrollment deadlines and changed rules for getting health insurance. While other folks were slugging down eggnog and making merry, we were trying to unwrap and assemble all the shiny new changes.
Here’s what you might have missed:
Folks with canceled plans
Remember all the people upset that they got letters informing them that their health-insurance plans were being discontinued? Just before Christmas, the Obama administration announced new rules that allow anyone whose plan was canceled to either buy so-called “catastrophic” plans or go uninsured but without having to pay the penalty that kicks in at the end of March.
The change potentially affects more than 227,000 Washington residents whose individual insurance plans were scuttled this fall because they didn’t comply with rules in the Affordable Care Act.
The kicker is that there is only one catastrophic plan for sale through most of the state, and there are actually cheaper, non-catastrophic plans available, so there’s not a huge financial benefit to this announcement. The biggest change is the provision saying these people won’t be penalized for not having insurance in 2014. But again, these are people who already had insurance, so presumably they liked being covered.
Folks who had trouble enrolling
While the state’s health insurance exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder, had a better track record than most marketplaces around the nation, the site for purchasing subsidized coverage had serious challenges. Whether it was the mistakes in calculating how much of a subsidy someone qualified for, or the inability to get through to the toll free help line, many people were stymied in their efforts to get insurance through the exchange.
So last month the state bumped back some enrollment and payment deadlines. If you started — but even if you did not complete — the online enrollment process by Dec. 23, you could still have health insurance starting Jan. 1. To get that coverage, you do need to make your first insurance premium payment by Jan. 15, then the coverage is retroactive.