What if you need a special health insurance enrollment period in 2024?

What if you need a special health insurance enrollment period in 2024?

Changing your health insurance doesn’t always happen in a neat and orderly fashion. In an ideal world, you should give two weeks’ notice at your old job, start a new job two weeks later, and have new employer-sponsored health insurance from day one. But that’s not how it works in reality for everyone.

If you lose your job, quit your job, or are between jobs, you may need another way to get health insurance. This is called a “Special Enrollment Period,” and it’s a federal rule that may allow you to sign up for health insurance even if you’re outside the usual time limits for annual enrollment.

Anyone who loses work-based health insurance, or has some other life event, is allowed to get new health insurance at any time with a special enrollment period. This can be a great way to make sure you have the coverage you need, whether you have a new job or not.

Let’s look at what the Special Enrollment Period is and how it can help you get health insurance — whenever you need it — in 2024.

Special registration period: what it is and how it works

You’ve probably heard of open enrollment or “annual enrollment” at work, right? It’s a wonderful time of year, usually starting in October or November, when employees can change their health insurance or enroll in other workplace benefits. Open enrollment is important because — assuming you stay with your current employer for the next 12 months — it’s a one-time opportunity each year to make changes to your insurance and other employee benefits.

The entire health insurance system is designed to assume that everyone stays at their job and can continue to use the same health insurance for the next full year. But the reality is more complicated. Not everyone stays at their job forever; some people unfortunately get fired and others decide to quit their jobs.

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If you quit or lose your job, a Special Enrollment Period is your chance to get new health insurance at HealthCare.gov. This can help you save a lot of money on monthly health insurance costs compared to the price of COBRA premiums.

A special enrollment period is like “Christmas in July” for health care. Rather than being limited to just one time of year, it allows people the flexibility to get health insurance coverage when they need it most.

Who can use a special registration period in 2024?

Not everyone is allowed to use a special registration period. To be able to use this flexible enrollment option, you must have what the US government defines as a “qualifying life event.” A typical example would be the loss of work-based health insurance (by quitting or losing a job), changes in your residence, or changes in your family or household.

Here are some common qualifying life events that allow you to get new health insurance with a special enrollment period:

  • Change of marital status: Marriage; or divorce or legal separation (and loss of health insurance as a result)
  • Welcoming a new baby: Birth of a child, adoption of a child or placement of a new foster child
  • Death of someone in your family who was responsible for your health insurance
  • Change of residence: Moving to a new home in a different zip code or county, or moving to or from where you go to school (as a student)
  • Loss of health insurance: Whether it’s job-based coverage, individual coverage, or eligibility for Medicaid, state Children’s Health Insurance Program insurance, or premium-free Medicare Part A.

Some of these qualifying life events may occur within the past 60 days or in the next 60 days. So don’t assume it’s too late—you may still be able to get health insurance. There are some other rare events and circumstances not listed above that may also help you qualify. If you have a special situation and need to get health insurance, start by going to HealthCare.gov and click the button that says “Check to see if you can register/change.”

If you qualify for a special enrollment period, while looking at the list of health insurance plans, try to get an HSA-eligible plan if you can. A health savings account (HSA) is a great way to pay for health care costs and save for future health care costs with tax-deductible dollars.

Ultimately: Changing health insurance in the middle of the year can be a little stressful and complicated, but don’t worry. A special enrollment period can give you peace of mind and protect your personal finances. If you lose your job, quit your job, or are in between jobs and don’t want to spend a lot of money on COBRA, you can get a lower-premium plan at HealthCare.gov. You may qualify for premium tax credits, depending on your income. Choosing the right HSA plan can help you save money on taxes.

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