Are you looking to get health insurance or change your current plan without breaking the bank? If so, open enrollment period might just be the perfect time for you to do this. Each year, for a few weeks typically in the fall, the doors open for everyone to either sign up for new health insurance or tweak their existing plans. This article is all about how you can take advantage of open enrollment to possibly get free health coverage for you and your family. We’ll explore programs like Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax credits, which offer a range of options for free or affordable coverage. Even if you miss the open enrollment period, programs like Medicaid and CHIP are available year-round.
How Households are Getting Free Coverage During Open Enrollment
Open enrollment is a set time each year, when you can get health insurance or change your existing coverage. It usually starts on November 1st and ends on January 15th or 16th in many places. However, the exact dates can vary if your state has its own sign-up times. People may also be able to make health insurance changes if a qualifying event happens like you move to a new state. During this time, people are not only more aware of coverage, and can have certain coverage opportunities open up.
Health Insurance Assistance Options
While there are some opportunities for free health coverage, there are also opportunities for affordable health coverage that are worth considering. These options include:
- ACA Credits
Now the beauty of Medicaid is the fact that this program is available all year, not just during open enrollment. However, that means during open enrollment (when a lot of people are making insurance changes), people should still keep this option in mind. Medicaid is a health insurance program in the U.S. that helps those that are low income. It does this by providing free or low cost health coverage. Each state runs its own version of Medicaid, but they have to follow the rules set by the federal government. That’s because the money that funds Medicaid comes from both state and federal sources. The federal government requires state programs to include key services like:
- Hospital services
- Doctor visits
- Lab tests
- Home care
States can also choose to offer extra services like medicine prescriptions, help in managing health issues, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
Another program available all year is CHIP. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) offers health insurance to kids under 19 whose families make too much money to get Medicaid but can’t afford private health insurance. CHIP helps pay for a lot of medical care for kids, like doctor’s visits, staying in the hospital, shots, regular check-ups, and seeing the dentist or eye doctor. Usually, you don’t have to pay for these services, but sometimes there’s a small fee or a monthly payment that’s not too expensive. Some states even offer CHIP to parents and women who are expecting a baby!
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) gives tax credits to help people and families who are low income. You can get a tax credit to help pay your monthly health insurance cost if you buy a plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace. This credit amount depends on your income and family details that you provide in your application. You can choose to use the full credit, just part of it, or none at all to lower your payments each month.
If you use more of this credit than you’re eligible for, you’ll have to pay it back when you do your taxes. If you use less, you’ll get the extra money back as a tax refund. On average, health insurance through Obamacare costs $560 each month. But, people who get this help pay about $77 a month on average. That’s a difference of $483 per month! Having hundreds of dollars back in your pocket can mean more money that can go towards groceries, rent, bills, and more.
Open enrollment is the time of year to really think about your health insurance. It’s when you can either get new insurance or change your current one. There’s help available like Medicaid for people who don’t make a lot of money, CHIP for kids, and special discounts through the ACA if you need them.
And don’t worry if you miss the open enrollment dates. Medicaid and CHIP are there for you all year ‘round, so you’re always covered. The main thing is to make sure you know what help you can get and when to apply for it. This way, you can keep more money in your pocket while making sure you and your family stay healthy. Remember, it’s about making smart choices at the right time, and you’ve got options no matter the time of year.