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The tumultuous rollout of the Affordable Care Act, including grievous website snafus and roving deadlines, can leave those who do manage to sign up for care through the health insurance exchanges -- popularly known as Obamacare -- a little less than confident they will have health insurance at the start of the new year.
Initially, for coverage beginning on January 1st, the deadline for enrollment was December 15th. It was later changed to December 23rd. Adding further confusion is another shift announced last week by Michael Hash, the Director of the Heath and Human Services (HHS) Office of Heath Reform, indicating that insurers are now required to begin coverage on January 1 for anyone who pays by December 31.
“The steps we’re taking today will help ensure that Americans seeking quality, affordable health coverage can do so with even more peace of mind and with even more confidence that it will be there when they want and need it,” said HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, about the added leeway.
This is good news for any consumers needing extra time, for whatever reason, to sign up. But, it’s still confusing. For those who a) plan to utilize Obamacare for health insurance beginning this January and b) manage to join by the deadline, here’s a trio of shrewd moves to ensure you’ll truly be covered:
1) Doctor check-in: Don’t assume that your old doctor will take your new plan. Showing up at the doctor’s office and discovering that they won’t take your insurance is a real drag—although not as bad as discovering that fact after treatment via an enormous bill.
2) Pay: There is growing concern that some Americans don’t realize that even though they may be enrolled in a program, their insurance won’t kick in on January 1st unless they pay their premium by December 31st. For those who don’t pay up in time, not only will they be without coverage in the new year, but they also may be forced to re-enroll in Obamacare. Given the struggles of many who have made it so far, having enrollment terminated could be tragic. Although some insurance providers, such as Aetna Inc., have announced deadlines later than December 31st, unless you know for sure, pay the premium by the end of the year.
3) Verify payment: Even when I book a flight online, I’m obsessive about calling the airline to confirm that my payment went through and my place is secured. Having learned a bitter lesson after being denied a seat upon arrival at the airport, I now take no chances. I’d definitely do the same after paying any premiums garnered through enrollment on heathcare.gov. Call your health insurance provider to confirm everything is in order. You will sleep easier.
Do you have faith that the insurance people sign up for now will kick in on Jan. 1? Tell us in the comments or in a blog post.