Missed the Obamacare signup deadline? Here's what to do


The deadline to enroll in health insurance through the Affordable Care Act was January 31, and you missed it. Oops.

Maybe you were buried in work. Maybe you were on vacation. Or maybe you didn't know what to do, so you didn't do anything.

All is not lost. For starters, if you're eligible for Medicaid, you can enroll any time of year. Same for members of federally recognized tribes or Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) Corporation shareholders. 

Here are three other ways you can still get health insurance this year:

1. Qualifying life events give you a 60-day deadline extension for Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act says the only allowable enrollments outside of the open enrollment (which ended on Jan. 31) are for a "qualifying life event." 

These events — moving, getting married, having a baby, losing your job, turning 26, and a few other situations — by their nature are things that tend to happen more to young people starting out -- and if they do, you may be eligible for a "special enrollment period," allowing you to enroll in health insurance outside the yearly open enrollment.

In other words — a deadline extension. 

If you're moving to a new zip code, from outside of the United States or are a student moving to or from school you'll also get special dispensation to enroll.

Other circumstances that enable you for enrollment after the deadline include becoming a U.S. citizen, being released from prison, losing eligibility for Medicaid or being a victim for domestic abuse or spousal abandonment.

But! You need to verify any changes with documentation, and you only have 60 days from the qualifying event to enroll. 

To see if you qualify for a special enrollment period, use this questionnaire.

2. Get covered with short-term insurance until you figure out your next move.

Short term insurance is the closest thing to full coverage that you can get outside of the marketplaces offered under the Affordable Care Act.

Short term plans are now limited to three months and are only intended to bridge gaps between coverage. While they provide basic coverage, there some differences from ACA plans, such as lifetime maximum caps, which are no longer allowed in ACA plans, that still remain here. Usually they are between $750,000 and $2 million.

In addition, these plans are not required to include the 10 essential benefits required by ACA plans (including prescription drugs, emergency care, maternity coverage and preventative care).

Remember: Short-term plans are not a replacement for an ACA plan. Since they do not provide minimum essential coverage, you will still be charged a penalty. But at least you'll be covered until you find a longer-term solution.

Major providers such as United Healthcare,  Blue Cross Blue Shield and Assurant all offer short-term plans. You can also search for plans on sites like eHealth and Health Insurance Innovations.

3. Buy private insurance on your own.

If you decide to go it alone, look for plans that meet all the requirements of the health care law by covering pre-existing conditions, providing free preventative care and not capping annual benefits. 

The biggest challenge, of course, is finding one you can actually afford. The Wall Street Journal suggests looking on exchanges such as  eHealth,  HealthInsurance.comHealthPlanOne and InsureMonkey.   

Always make sure to check out-of-pocket costs before making a final selection. As with most ACA plans, the options with the lowest monthly premiums tend to have the highest deductibles.

Also be aware that any plan purchased outside the marketplace is not eligible for premium tax credits or other savings based on your income. 

In other words, you'll have to foot the entire bill yourself.

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