If you’ve been following our coverage on Obamacare and think the Affordable Care Act might benefit you, it’s almost time to take the next step. With the open enrollment period beginning October 1 (it extends through March 31, 2014), here’s a step-by-step guide for signing up.
Your first stop is the government’s official website, HealthCare.gov. From there, if your state is one of 16 (plus the District of Columbia) that’s running its own plan, you’ll be redirected to your state’s page. For the 34 other states, you’ll continue on the federal site.
Once you’re read to begin the application process (which has been drastically reduced from 21 pages to 3), here’s what you’ll need to have handy:
- Social Security numbers for yourself and household members.
- Employer and income information for every member of your household who needs coverage (that means have your tax return, W-2 form, and pay stubs nearby).
- Policy numbers for any current health insurance plans covering members of your household.
- You’ll also need to fill out the Employer Coverage Tool worksheet that can be downloaded here.
With your materials in front of you, it’s time to begin the registration process. You’ll have to enter all of your personal details, and the income/health insurance information as mentioned above. Based on the information you provide, you’ll be given a list of your options. If you qualify for Medicaid or CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), you’ll be contacted by a representative who will assist you with enrollment.
For all other insurance options, you’ll get a breakdown as to what your monthly premium, out-of-pocket costs and benefits will be for each plan. Premiums will be based on family size, age and wheter you’re a smoker or non-smoker.
Next, it’s up to you to pick the plan that makes the most sense for your health needs and budget. Keep in mind that, once you enroll, the new insurance won’t take effect until January 1, 2014.
If all of this leaves you confused, not to worry. There are application “navigators” available to contact for free assistance, as well as an associated hotline in case you get to the site and feel overwhelmed on how to proceed: 800-318-2596. Again, this service is free of charge, so anyone asking you for a fee is likely a scammer.
Keep in touch, and let us know how your enrollment goes.