Miss The Affordable Care Act Deadline? Here Are Three Options Worth Considering

The deadline for the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka “Obamacare”) has passed, and if you’re like millions of Americans who’ve yet to sign up, then you may be wondering, “What happens next?”

With so many deadlines passed around over the last month — is it December 15? December 23? December 24? State-decided? — no one can blame you for being confused. The Obama administration has also stated that it may still be able to qualify you for coverage if you can prove you had trouble signing up as a result of technical difficulties with the healthcare.gov website.

But if you haven’t signed up by now, there is a very real possibility you end up uninsured. If that happens, don’t panic. There are three options available that you may wish to consider until the next open enrollment period.

One: a short-term health insurance policy.

This type of policy can have a duration of between one and 11 months with six as the standard. They are not regulated under the language of the Affordable Care Act; therefore, they offer a more barebones policy than ACA, but that also means they’re not dictated by some of the premium benefits (that you may not need), which drive up your monthly costs.

You can also purchase these with higher deductible amounts than what is allowed for under the ACA, thus further reducing the cost of your premiums.

Renewals are fairly simple to handle and may be automatically renewable depending on the insurer from whom you make the purchase. One thing to remember about renewals, however: these are not long-term policies (hence the “short-term” distinction). That means renewals typically max out after three years, so it would be best to have a more Cadillac policy in place by that time. Of course, it makes sense to better your coverage anyway as you get older since major medical events are more likely to happen after the age of 40.

Two: fixed-benefit, critical illness, or accident insurance.

These types of policies will compensate the consumer with cash payments for things like cancer, overnight stays in the hospital, or other forms of extensive medical treatment. (It’s best to read the verbiage on your policy before purchasing to know what all is covered.)

Whichever of these alternative insurance plans that you purchase, get ready for big savings as they only run a fraction of the standard policies offered under the stipulations of the Affordable Care Act. Also, since they offer cash, you don’t have to worry about where you get the treatment (i.e. from an in-network or out-of-network doctor).

Three: Max out medical, uninsured/underinsured amounts on your auto insurance policy.

A third thing you may wish to consider that will really help out in the event of an accident is to purchase the maximum amount of medical and uninsured/underinsured coverage on your auto policy. Doing so can aid in the payment of medical bills should you have an accident that takes a physical toll.

One Caveat You No Longer Need To Stress Over:

About the only caveat for the short-term plans listed above is that they do not cover pre-existing conditions the way the new ACA policies dictate, and it’s still not clear what future they will have post-2014. But for now, you don’t need to worry about that if you find yourself without health insurance. Simply purchase a safety-net policy from your insurance agent, and then, if your employer still doesn’t offer insurance, see about signing up for a comprehensive policy during the next open enrollment period.

No matter how you go about it, it’s important to have some form of health insurance. The future is never certain, and no person should see their life savings wiped out over a major medical event. Best of luck as you decide the right path!

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