There are some key events, and key moments in time, that open the door to getting covered.
Key moment: Open Enrollment
There is a period of time every year called Open Enrollment for Affordable Care Act or ACA plans. The timeline varies to some degree from state-to-state, but this is the window where everyone can buy or renew health coverage if they need it. Outside of this Open Enrollment period, generally you can only buy an ACA plan if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period based on certain life events.
Key event: Job loss
If you lose a job that supplies you with health coverage, you are eligible to enroll in an ACA plan via a Special Enrollment Period, no matter what time of the year it is. You are automatically qualified to enroll in new coverage whether you are laid off, fired, or even quit.
If you don’t anticipate being out of work for very long (say, if you already have a new job lined up), then COBRA, if your employer offers it, may be a sensible option to work as a coverage plan.
Note that when you continue your coverage under COBRA you often have to pay 102% of the coverage plan costs because your former employer is no longer paying all or some of the costs of coverage. You might also see if you have a spouse or partner with employer group coverage whether their group health plan will allow you to enroll as well.
Key event: Moving to a new state
Coverage options shift depending on the state you’re in. So, when you move, you often need to find new health coverage. It’s good to start exploring what’s available to you before you actually move – so you can get covered without a break in coverage (and avoid paying anything more than you have to in your old state).
Key event: Getting married or divorced
When you get married or divorced, you’re eligible to enroll in an ACA plan (though you don’t have to change insurance plans if you don’t want to). One of the benefits of getting married is that it opens you up to family coverage plans – which may be ultimately less expensive than two people paying for single coverage. Don’t wait too long—many plans require you to take action within 30 or 60 days of the marriage.
Key event: Having a child
Whether through birth or adoption, having a child qualifies you for enrollment in an ACA plan coverage. Don’t wait too long—many plans require you to take action within 30 or 60 days of the birth or adoption.