Obamacare Q&A: Switching insurance plans, February deadlines and free coverage

In today’s Obamacare Q&A: How to switch exchange insurance plans, when February premiums are due, and what you need to do if you qualify for a plan with a $0 premium.

If you have a question about the health law you’d like addressed, email Mirror Health Reporter Arielle Levin Becker at alevinbecker@ctmirror.org.

I signed up for insurance through the exchange but am not happy with it. Can I switch to another insurance company?

You can, for now, but you’ll have to follow certain rules.

People who buy plans through the exchange can switch to different plans until the end of the open enrollment period, which runs through March 31, according to Chad Brooker, a policy and legal analyst for Access Health CT, the state’s exchange. Customers can change from one insurer to another, or select a different type of plan, such as one that requires you to pay less out-of-pocket when getting care, or one that requires higher out-of-pocket costs but has a lower premium.

There are three rules to know: You must request the switch by the 15th of a month for the change start at the beginning of the following month. Your current insurer must get 14 days’ notice that you’re dropping its plan. And once the open enrollment period ends, you won’t be allowed to change plans unless you have a specific reason, such as if your income or household status changes in a way that affects your eligibility for financial assistance with your premiums or cost-sharing.

To make a switch, you can call the Access Health call center (1-855-805-4325). They’ll let the old and new plans know about the change.

The deadlines for making the changes are the same as the deadlines for enrolling in a plan. If you tell Access Health by Feb. 15 that you want to change plans, the change will take effect March 1. After that, any changes wouldn’t take effect until April 1 at the earliest. If you request a change after March 15, it will take effect May 1.

The 14-day rule is most important for people who decide to drop a plan without signing up for another one. In that situation, your coverage would end after two weeks. Depending on the timing, you could be required to pay another premium bill before the plan terminates. If you ask to drop your plan on Jan. 27, for example, you’d be covered until Feb. 10. That means you’d have to pay your February premium. Carriers have the option of refunding you for the portion of February that you’re not covered, but they don’t have to, Brooker said.

If you’re planning to drop a plan without signing up for a new one, you can do it through Access Health or through the insurance company directly.

So far, the exchange has had some requests to switch plans, but not an “overwhelming” number, CEO Kevin Counihan said.

What is payment deadline for February premiums?

The deadline is Jan. 31.

Exchange customers got extra time to pay their January premiums this year. But as of now, the insurers selling individual coverage through the exchange have not extended their February payment deadlines.

For Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield customers, the deadline for January coverage is also Jan. 31. That means that those customers’ January and February premiums are due by the same day.

Going forward, premiums for each month will be due by the final day of the month before.

I signed up for insurance through the exchange but don’t have to pay a premium because my income is low. What do I need to do to start coverage? Do I need to send a check for $0 to the insurance company?

You don’t have to send anything to your insurance company. You should get an insurance card in the mail without sending in anything, according to each of the companies selling individual-market plans through the exchange.

If you’re a HealthyCT customer, you’ll get an invoice for $0 in the mail, but you don’t have to send in anything. The invoice is part of the company’s system for generating the ID card, which will be mailed to you.

People can get plans with no premiums if their income is low and the amount of federal financial assistance they qualify for to buy insurance exceeds the cost of the plan they want to buy. For more on people considering no-premium plans, click here.

Previous Q&As:

Can I get a tax credit for buying an insurance plan outside the exchange?

What are the deadlines for buying insurance through the exchange?

What happens if I lose my insurance in 2014 after the open enrollment period is over?

Will I be penalized if I go five months without insurance?

End-of-year coverage deadlines

How should I cancel an old policy?

What happens if you don’t have coverage Jan. 1?

What happens once you enroll through Access Health CT?

Are there new options under Obamacare for getting family coverage if my employer-sponsored plan is too expensive?

Will my kids lose HUSKY coverage if I buy discounted insurance through the exchange?
If I don’t get insurance, how will they come after me?

Are the deductibles on a family plan for each person or for everyone?

Is dental coverage included in the exchange plans?

Should I Consider the exchange if I’m on Medicare?

What should I do when applying for coverage if my income is erratic?

Can a small employer buy coverage for workers through the individual market?

What if I’ve been denied coverage in the past?

Do I need to buy additional coverage if I already have a plan?

What if I lose my job?

I qualify for free insurance through the exchange. Is it worth it?

Exchange insurance prices, explained

Which doctors are covered by exchange plans?

Can people still contribute to health savings accounts?

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