Thursday, April 19, 2018

How to make sure you enrolled in Obamacare

The deadline has passed, and so too the surprise grace period, for signing up for health insurance as part of the nation's health care law.

Now what?

For those who were able to navigate the glitch-prone and often overwhelmed HealthCare.gov website, there's still work to be done to make sure success online leads to actual coverage come the new year.

The first step experts recommend is to call your insurance company and double-check they received your payment.

What if you missed the Christmas Eve deadline and still want insurance in 2014, as the health law requires of most Americans? You may be without health insurance for a month, but you can still sign up for coverage that will start in February.

"Be patient, because they're trying to help you," said Tina Stewart, 25, a graduate student in Salt Lake City who succeeded in enrolling in a health plan Tuesday morning. "It will take time."

The historic changes made by the Affordable Care Act take full effect on Jan. 1. People with chronic health conditions can no longer be denied health insurance. Those who get sick and start piling up medical bills will no longer lose their coverage. Out-of-pocket limits arrive that are designed to protect patients from going bankrupt.

But unless the 1 million Americans who have so far enrolled for coverage via the new marketplaces make sure their applications have arrived at their new insurance companies without errors, some may find they're still uninsured when they try to refill a prescription or make a doctor's appointment.

"The enrollment files have been getting better and more accurate, but there is still work that needs to be done," said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade group that represents the private insurance industry. "The health plans are still having to go back and fix some of data errors coming through in these files."

If everything went smoothly, consumers can expect to see a welcome packet arrive in the mail from their insurance company, Zirkelbach said. If not, a phone call to the insurer might clear things up.

"If a consumer signed up yesterday, they shouldn't expect the health plan to have their enrollment application today," Zirkelbach said. "Allow a couple of days to receive and process those enrollments."

Paying the first premium is crucial. Because of the changing deadlines for enrollment, most insurers have agreed to allow payments through Jan. 10 and will make coverage retroactive to Jan. 1, he said.

Anyone who missed the Christmas Eve deadline to enroll for insurance to start in January can still apply at HealthCare.gov for coverage to begin later. The federal website serves 36 states, but also directs people elsewhere to the online insurance site serving their state. The site also offers directions to local agencies offering in-person help.

After the disastrous rollout in October, the federal website received 2 million visits on Monday, and heavy — but not as heavy — traffic on Tuesday. White House spokeswoman Tara McGuinness said she had no immediate estimate of visitors Tuesday or how many succeeded in obtaining insurance before the midnight Christmas Eve deadline. The unexpected one-day grace period was just the latest in a string of delays and reversals.

Unless you qualify for Medicaid, you'll pay a monthly "premium" fee to an insurance company for coverage. Before the company covers actual medical costs, you may have to pay a certain amount called a deductible, in addition to a possible set fee for a doctor visit (copay) or a percentage of the cost of a medical service (coinsurance).

Federal tax credits are aimed at helping make premiums more affordable for households earning between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty line. That's $11,490 to $45,960 for an individual, $23,550 to $94,200 for a family of four.

Finally, note the next significant deadline isn't for a few more months. If you don't have coverage by March 31, you'll pay a tax penalty next year.

Comments
Rick Scott’s Medicaid numbers come under fire

Rick Scott’s Medicaid numbers come under fire

When it comes to health-care math, sometimes the numbers don't add up for Florida Gov. Rick Scott.As Scott's administration this week submits a request to the federal government to trim the amount of time people have to apply for Medicaid coverage, t...
Updated: 4 minutes ago
Tech Data names Rich Hume to take over as new CEO

Tech Data names Rich Hume to take over as new CEO

CLEARWATER — Tech Data, Tampa Bay’s largest public company, has named Richard "Rich" T. Hume as its new chief executive officer, effective June 6.Hume, Tech Data’s executive vice president and chief operating officer since joining the company in 2016...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Nikita Kucherov drives Lightning past Devils

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Nikita Kucherov drives Lightning past Devils

Nikita Kucherov scores two goals and delivers some big hits as the Lightning beats the Devils, 3-1, in a physical Game 4 that pushes Tampa Bay to within one win of clinching the series.Meanwhile, the Rays beat the Rangers to as Jake Faria pitche...
Updated: 27 minutes ago
Persall: Upon my retirement, a look back at a star-quality career

Persall: Upon my retirement, a look back at a star-quality career

Time to retire, nearly 25 years to the day after starting work as the Times' movie critic. That's how long I pledged to stay if hired in 1993. Nobody believed it. I couldn't blame them.
Updated: 28 minutes ago
Meet the state’s top pole vaulter: River Ridge’s Stone Baker

Meet the state’s top pole vaulter: River Ridge’s Stone Baker

NEW PORT RICHEY — Long before he became the best pole vaulter in the state, Stone Baker was 12 years old and liked to play football.He didn't know a vaulting pole from a tennis racket.Then one day his friend, Evan Bales, asked him to come over ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
State money for new Rays ballpark? In debate, Graham is a yes, three others say no

State money for new Rays ballpark? In debate, Graham is a yes, three others say no

TAMPA — If three of the four Democrats running for governor win in November, the Tampa Bay Rays shouldn't bother asking the state for money to help build a new ballpark in Ybor City.At Wednesday's gubernatorial debate in Tampa, Tallahassee Mayo...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning holds off Devils and David Puddy

Lightning holds off Devils and David Puddy

NEWARK, N.J. — The Devils pulled out all the stops for Wednesday's Game 4 of their Stanley Cup quarter final series with the Lightning by inviting David Puddy at the Prudential Center.For those who do not know who he is, Puddy was Elaine's...
Updated: 1 hour ago
North Korea has a new budget and it's full of fiscal hijinks

North Korea has a new budget and it's full of fiscal hijinks

North Korean Economics 101: Pyongyang's new national budget reflects steady growth, gives big boosts to just about everything and perplexes experts trying to understand what's really going on
Updated: 1 hour ago
'Seinfeld' actor shows up at Devils game with face painted

'Seinfeld' actor shows up at Devils game with face painted

Life imitated art at the Stanley Cup playoffs as the actor who played Puddy on the TV sitcom "Seinfeld" showed up at the game with his face painted as a New Jersey Devils fan
Updated: 1 hour ago
'Seinfeld' actor shows up at Devils game with face painted

'Seinfeld' actor shows up at Devils game with face painted

Life imitated art at the Stanley Cup playoffs as the actor who played Puddy on the TV sitcom "Seinfeld" showed up at the game with his face painted as a New Jersey Devils fan
Updated: 1 hour ago