Get Signed Up for Coverage Starting January 1st
Well, the last two months of open enrollment have been interesting to say the least. It is a new way of finding health insurance, and with that come some hurdles both in the education process and the technology process with new systems. For some, it is a breath of fresh air to find affordable coverage, and for others who don't qualify for a tax credit it may be disheartening to see the monthly premiums and plan benefits offered. Others may have attempted to complete an application direct online, but were unsuccessful due to technical difficulties.
This new way of applying for health insurance doesn't include all the screening questions for medical conditions to determine your eligibility and monthly premiums, but now the extra work is in screening applicants who may be eligible to receive the Advance Premium Tax Credit (APTC). This requires some extra steps in providing household income and tax filing information, so make sure you use the income based on where you project it will be for 2014, and if you don't know you should use your income for 2013 as a starter. You can always call Covered California in 2014 if your income is different from what you include on your initial application.
Plans selected for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield through Covered California are set to start as early as January 1st, but in order for coverage to start January 1st you need to complete an application (I strongly suggest online application with the help of an insurance agent) by December 23rd. The original date to complete an application for coverage to start January 1st was December 15th, but in light of the issues with processing paper paper applications and overloaded phone lines with website connection issues the date has been extended to Monday, December 23rd.
So, you have another week or so to sign up. I would suggest contacting a Certified Insurance Agent in town. If you call Covered California you will most likely be on hold for a long time due to the high call volume.
You can find a list of insurance agents that are certified with Covered California by going to www.coveredca.com and clicking on "Find Help Near You." Then click on "Agents" and you will be able to search by entering your zip code or you can enter the name of an insurance agent in town to see if they are certified. You can also search for Certified Enrollment Counselors who can help with signing up. And, if you are interested in signing up for Medi-Cal (the new Healthy Families) you can search County Human Services Agencies.
After signing up and selecting a plan through Covered California your application information will be sent to the health plan you selected (Anthem Blue Cross or Blue Shield) and they will mail you information about the plan you selected including information to make your first payment, which the cut-off date to make your first payment may be extended in light of longer than expected turnaround times. Currently, the payment is to be made by January 6th, 2014, but I suggest keeping a good lookout on your mail and make the first month payment as soon as possible.
Garrett Viggers is a Northstate employee benefits specialist (Viggers Benefits) and Affordable Care Act (ACA) & Health Insurance Marketplace consultant. He has spent 11 years in the industry as a broker for large and small employers. He helped launch pioneer CDH company Veritas Health Systems (HRAs / HSAs) in 2002 and the spin-off technology company, Inovius, in 2006.
Most recently, in July 2013, Garrett founded Windfall App Technologies with the launch of the first-to-market, Health Insurance Marketplace cross-platform Affordable Health App to find affordable coverage with a health premium tax credit in the Marketplace (Covered California). Windfall App Technologies is a team of ACA insurance experts and technology (App & Web) experts committed to providing relevant solutions in the new world of ACA and Health Insurance Marketplace Exchanges.