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If you’re one of the 35 million people enrolled in health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, Dec. 15, 2022 is a big day to remember. As GOBankingRates recently reported, that’s the final date you can file for 2023 coverage in order for it to be effective on Jan. 1.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2022 enrollment for the program, which provides comprehensive health insurance plans for those who are not eligible for options through employer-provided plans, hit a record high of 35 million this past April.
That includes those who took advantage of the Medicaid expansion, Health Insurance Marketplace coverage and the Basic Health Program adopted by some states. In fact, the report says 21 million people in more than 40 states and territories gained health care coverage thanks to the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid to low-income adults under 65.
With so many people new to the program, groups like the nonprofit HealthInsurance.org, a free resource that helps Americans make the right choices for coverage, are warning enrollees to be mindful of the approaching deadline to sign up for a new 2023 plan. They also advise doing research to be sure that current insurance options are still applicable for those wanting to keep plans in place.
“It pays to plan ahead, and shopping for health insurance is no exception,” said Louise Norris, health policy analyst for HealthInsurance.org, in a statement.
Mark December 15 on Your Calendar
First, Norris noted, Dec. 15, 2022, is the deadline to file your application for a 2023 plan to begin on Jan. 1, 2023. You must also submit your first month’s premium payment prior to Jan. 1. While some states do allow you to enroll all the way through Jan. 15 (except Idaho, which mandates a hard deadline of Dec. 15), delaying your application could leave you uninsured for the first month of the year.
And, as Norris noted, “Beginning early gives you more time to understand your health insurance options and ask questions … If you’re enrolling online, it’s also a good idea to give yourself a time buffer for any technical issues you might experience.”
Be Wary of Auto-Renewing Your Policy
Norris noted that there are risks with auto renewing your 2022 policy for 2023. Even if you like your coverage and want to keep it, it’s a good idea to look it over to make sure nothing has changed for the year and that your provider is still active in your state.
Provider exits have happened routinely since the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2010, and they have ramped up in recent years as many insurers cite a losses. Notably, in 2019, Aetna pulled its coverage in 11 of the 15 states where it had ACA plans in place, noting losses of $430 million, Health Care Recruiters International reported. Changes for 2023 include Bright Health Care leaving all 15 states where it has plans, HealthInsurance.org noted.
The Marketplace, the official site for which is HealthCare.gov, has measures in place to ensure you don’t have a gap in coverage. If you don’t choose a new plan, your current one, if it’s still available, will auto-renew. If it’s not available, you may be automatically placed into a 2023 option with a different insurance provider.
“Automatic re-enrollment is a safety mechanism to prevent people from becoming unintentionally uninsured, but it’s never a good idea to put your health insurance decisions on autopilot,” said Norris. “Each year, there may be changes to the plan you have, or it may no longer even be available for the coming year. Automatic re-enrollment might keep you insured, but you can’t count on it to put you in the plan option that best meets your needs.”
However, if you are one of the many millions who had Bright Health Care or another provider exiting your state, you’ll have a bit more time — the deadline to apply for a new plan is Dec. 31, 2022.
But even if your plan is still offered in 2023, you’ll want to make sure it still fits your needs and that there isn’t an option that’s even more competitive, as there’s an uptick in new providers coming to market with ACA plans.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Why December 15, 2022 Is a Key Date for ACA Health Insurance