The Affordable Care Act guarantees that almost everyone can get health insurance. In most cases, you can only sign up for a health insurance plan during the open enrollment period, which for this year, ended on March 31.
If you missed open enrollment, you may be able to enroll during the special enrollment period. This runs from April 1 through November 14, 2014. To be eligible, you must have had a qualifying "life event" within the past 60 days.
What Is a Qualifying Life Event?
You have had a qualifying life event — and therefore qualify for the special enrollment period — if:
- You move to a new area that offers you different plans, or isn't covered by your HMO network.
- You get married.
- You have or adopt a child.
- You lose other health coverage due to job loss, a decrease in work hours, end of COBRA coverage or other reasons.*
- You become a U.S. citizen.
- Your income changes, or some other event changes your income or household status.
- You can prove that your health insurance company violated its contract with you.
- You are no longer covered on a family member's policy because you turned 26, you have legally separated from or divorced your spouse, or the policy holder has passed away.
- You become a member of an American Indian and Alaska Native tribe.
- You experience an error or other complication when trying to enroll
How Does Special Enrollment Work?
In most cases, you have 60 days after the qualifying life event to enroll in or change your health plan. If you have insurance through your job, you may only have 30 days to enroll. You can enroll directly through Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL). Or, if you think you qualify for financial assistance, you can apply on the Health Insurance Marketplace.
If you already have a plan and want to change it, you can do so on the Marketplace or with BCBSIL, depending on where you first enrolled.
When you sign up for or change your insurance plan during the special enrollment period, your coverage may not start right away. The date your coverage starts is based on your life event and the date you apply.
What if I Don't Qualify for Special Enrollment?
If you missed open enrollment and don't qualify for the special enrollment period, you can still stay insured by buying short-term insurance directly from BCBSIL. We offer affordable short-term plans that can keep you covered until the next open enrollment period begins on November 15.
Please note: Short-term plans give you basic health care coverage, but they don't meet the Affordable Care Act's minimum essential coverage requirements. As a result, you may still have to pay a fine for having a plan that doesn't meet these requirements.
Depending on your income, you may qualify for Medicaid or CHIP. There is no special enrollment period for those government offered coverage options – you can apply at any time.
Members of American Indian tribes can enroll any month, not just during open enrollment. You can even apply for cost assistance.
Start Shopping Now
If you qualify for special enrollment, start shopping now to compare BCBSIL plans and find the right one for you.
* Please note that the following are not considered loss of coverage: voluntarily canceling your health insurance plan, having your plan canceled because you did not pay your premiums or because your plan did not meet the requirements set by the Affordable Care Act.