There are a number of reasons why you might be looking to get new health insurance or make changes to your current policy. In some cases, you will have to wait for the annual open enrollment period in order to enroll in a plan or make changes to your current plan, and this period generally takes place between the beginning of November or December and the end of January or February, although dates can vary from year to year. However, you may qualify to add or change a health insurance policy outside of open enrollment dates for several reasons, such as losing a job, getting a new job, getting married, or having a child, just for example. Additionally, if you are are fairly healthy you can get short term health insurance any time of the year. But how long will it be before your new policy takes effect?
If you look up the information for open enrollment, you’ll likely find pertinent dates. For 2016 enrollment, for example, the open enrollment period begins November 1, 2015 and ends January 31, 2016. But another important date is the first date coverage can start in this period, and that is January 1, 2016. But what if you find yourself in need of an insurance policy outside of the open enrollment period? How long do you have to wait for coverage to kick in?
The process will depend on a variety of factors. For example, the manner in which you decide to apply could play a role. You can apply online, over the phone, in person, or by mail. The first option is likely to be the quickest since you can fill out all the necessary paperwork digitally and submit it immediately. Calling a licensed agent is likely to go just as smoothly. But it may take a bit more time to complete the process in person since you have to secure an appointment and provide the necessary documentation. And obviously, applying by mail is going to take the longest since you have to allow time for the physical transport of your application to and from insurance brokers.
Of course, the amount of time it takes to get coverage could also depend on where you’re trying to get it (through the health insurance marketplace or a directly from the insurance carriers, for example), as well as your ability to provide your information in a timely manner. Even if you think you’ve filled out all the paperwork correctly the first time, it could turn out that you need to submit further information after the fact, and this could definitely hold up the process. Once you determine what type of coverage you’re eligible for, you’ll also have to figure out which policy you want to enroll in and the options you prefer.
From there, you’ll have to set up payments and decide whether you want to pay by check, make payments electronically, or have money automatically withdrawn from a checking account each month. Once you have made your decisions and your first payment has been processed, your coverage can take effect. For plans regulated by the ACA (Obamacare), if you complete the process by the 15th of any given month, your coverage should begin on the first day of the following month. If your first payment is processed after the 15th, however, your health insurance coverage may not be available until the second month following the processing of your information. Whereas, most carriers that offer short term medical plans offer coverage the very next day after processing your first payment. In other words, the process could be relatively speedy, but it all depends on a variety of factors, some of which you control and others that are out of your hands.
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