'Tis the season. The season to sign up for Obamacare, that is.
While Republicans are doing everything they can to stop the Affordable Care Act, aka government-subsidized health coverage, the plans' proponents have kept it intact thus far — pointing out that millions of previously-uninsured Americans are now protected. But looming 2017 price increases for consumers suggest more battles to come.
The open enrollment period begins Nov. 1, at which time you can enroll for the first time, re-enroll or change the type or coverage you have. If you complete this by Dec. 15, your coverage will begin Jan. 1, 2017.
HealthCare.gov breaks down the deadlines and timeline as follows:
— Nov. 1, 2016: Open enrollment starts — first day you can enroll, re-enroll, or change a 2017 insurance plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Coverage can start as soon as Jan. 1, 2017.
— Dec. 15, 2016: Last day to enroll in or change plans for coverage to start Jan. 1, 2017.
— Jan. 1, 2017: 2017 coverage starts for those who enroll or change plans by Dec. 15.
— Jan. 31, 2017: Last day to enroll in or change a 2017 health plan. After this date, you can enroll or change plans only if you qualify for a special enrollment period.
As indicated, you technically have until Jan. 31 to sign up or change your plan, but doing so will then delay your coverage's start date, meaning you won't have health insurance from the very beginning of the year — which is risky.
Now, if you have extenuating circumstances, you may well qualify for the special enrollment period: These situations might include, for example, if you move, get married, have a child, or lose your current health insurance.
In these cases, you have 60 days from the change in circumstances to enroll in Obamacare. You qualify even if these changes happen outside the open enrollment period — that is to say, at any point during the year.