Open enrollment begins November 15 and ends February 15, 2015. This is the time of the year that anybody can sign up for Obamacare health insurance. If you’re looking to buy coverage for yourself or your family, this guide will show you how to enroll in 5 easy steps.
Go on Healthcare.gov and click “Get Coverage”
From there you’ll use a drop-down menu to choose your state. Depending on the state, you might be be given a link to “visit your state marketplace.” This is because some states run their own Obamacare website. The rest of the states use the federal website (healthcare.gov).
If you live in one of the 17 states that runs it’s own marketplace, you’ll have to use the state website to buy health insurance. While state-run websites may look a little different and have slightly different offerings, the basic application process, plan levels, subsidies and benefits are the same.
Create an Account
Once you’re in the right place, you’ll have to create an account. Enter in your name and email address. You’ll also have to choose a password and choose some security questions incase you forget your password and need to reset it. Next you’ll be asked to verify your identity. This can be done with either a Social Security Number or document numbers for legal immigrants.
Apply for a subsidy (optional)
At this point you’ll be asked if you want to apply for a subsidy on your health insurance costs. If you earn below 400% of the poverty level (which is $46,680 in 2014, or $95,400 for a family of four) you can apply for a reduction to your premium: the monthly fee you pay for health insurance. Using our subsidy calculator, we found that family of four that earns $60,000 can save almost 50% on their premiums.
To apply, you’ll need to fill in some information about your employment and current health insurance. You’ll want to have the following ready:
Employer & income information for everybody in the household who needs coverage (i.e. pay-stubs or W-2 forms)
Policy number of your current health insurance plan
Information about any employer coverage plan you’re eligible for – be it from your own employer, a spouses’, a parent’s, etc.
If you earn above 400% of the poverty level you won’t qualify for subsidies. You can skip this step and move on.
Choose a plan
Of all the steps this one will take the most consideration. While browsing through the options, you’ll notice plans are separated into levels - bronze, silver, gold and platinum. These levels describe how much of your health bills you can expect to pay out-of-pocket. Even with health insurance, you usually have to pay a certain amount when you visit a doctor or fill a prescription. You might also need to spend a certain amount before insurance pays for anything at all, which is called a deductible. Together, these fees make up your out-of-pocket costs and they range from a lot to very little.
Bronze level plans usually have the highest out-of-pocket costs and platinum level plans have the lowest. Silver and gold level plans are in between.
With bronze plans, however, you typically pay the lowest monthly premium. This makes bronze plans a good choice if you don’t see the doctor very frequently. You’ll have to pay more out-of-pocket each visit, but you could save money in the long run with a lower monthly premium.
On the other hand, if you have a chronic condition and/or anticipate major treatment, you should probably look at a gold or platinum plan. You’ll have to pay higher monthly premiums, but you’ll spend less out-of-pocket when you visit a doctor.
Once you’ve selected a plan, it’s as easy as clicking “enroll.” Insurance companies can no longer deny an applicant due to pre-existing conditions, so there’s no need to share your medical history.
Now that you’re enrolled, you’ll pay the first month’s premium directly to the insurance company – NOT the Obamacare marketplace. Look for confirmation that the payment was received and you’re all set.