HealthCare.gov barely worked when it launched last fall, with only six people able to enroll in a plan on opening day. But the new version of HealthCare.gov is open for business.
For starters, it’s a working website. Its load times have improved substantially, and the administration says it can handle twice as much traffic volume as last year. For customers shopping for coverage, you actually browse plans — get a sense of what they cost, check eligibility for tax credits (which are under Supreme Court review) and decide whether you want to buy.
Open enrollment for those purchasing coverage for the first time begins Nov. 15 and runs through Feb. 15. California consumers who wish to purchase a plan with a Jan. 1, 2015, effective date will need to complete their Covered California enrollment by Dec. 15.
Open enrollment is the only time that you can enroll in a plan or change plans, unless you qualify for a special enrollment period. The only way to get subsided insurance is by enrolling in the health insurance marketplace.
The only way to avoid the monthly fee for not having insurance is to obtain minimum essential coverage and maintain it throughout the year or to qualify for an exemption. All marketplace coverage counts as minimum essential coverage.
People who purchased insurance through Covered California in 2014 must renew their policy to remain covered in 2015. The renewal period is open now through Dec. 15. During the renewal process, you can make changes like switching to a different health plan or adding a family member to your plan.
One of the most important things to do during the renewal process is to give consent for Covered California to verify your income. If you do not give your consent, you may lose your premium assistance in 2015. See the Renewal FAQs on the Covered California website (Coveredca.com) for more information, including step-by-step instructions for giving consent for income verification and completing the renewal process.
If you don’t complete the renewal process, you’ll automatically be renewed in the same health plan — as long as it is still available. You’ll be billed for the new premium amount, which may be more than the 2014 premium. People who were enrolled in plans that won’t be available in 2015 received letters from Covered California. People who were enrolled in discontinued plans must sign up for a new plan by Dec. 15. If they don’t, their coverage will end on Jan. 1, 2015.