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ACA open enrollment: What you need to know about 2020 health plans

Cropped SingleCare logo By | November 1, 2019
Medically reviewed by Anis Rehman, MD

With November here, it’s the time of year to start thinking about your health insurance status and plan for any updates to your coverage. Whether you’re considering health insurance as an individual or family, it’s essential to be prepared for the 2020 ACA open enrollment period, which runs from Nov. 1, 2019 to Dec. 15, 2019. 

What is the Affordable Care Act (ACA)?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), sometimes referred to as Obamacare, is a federal statute signed into law by the Obama administration. The law was designed to increase healthcare coverage for Americans, primarily by expanding Medicaid services, creating health plan marketplaces, and changing how insurers offer coverage for people with preexisting conditions. 

Implemented in 2010, core aspects of Obamacare are still in place. Health insurance marketplaces sometimes called health insurance exchanges, still exist for people to use. However, in 2017 the law was amended by the Trump administration to remove the individual mandate—the tax penalty for people choosing not to have health insurance. 

Depending on your income level, you may be eligible for an Obamacare premium subsidy, which is designed to lower the cost of health coverage. Subsidy (or premium tax credit) eligibility is based on your income. The standard rule is that you have to earn at least 100 percent of the federal poverty level, but not more than 400 percent of the poverty level.

Qualifying income levels change each year due to inflation, and you will be able to check your eligibility on Nov. 1 through the ACA website, healthcare.gov

When is open enrollment?

Each year there is a window of time when you can enroll in a healthcare plan. This period is called the annual open enrollment period. 

The 2020 open enrollment period (OEP) is from Nov.1, 2019 to Dec. 15, 2019. If you purchase a plan during this period, your coverage begins on Jan. 1, 2020. 

Some states offer extended open enrollment periods. Below is a table that details their specific open enrollment deadlines:

States Open Enrollment Dates for 2020
California Nov. 1, 2019 – Jan. 15, 2020
Colorado Nov. 1, 2019 – Jan. 15, 2020
Massachusetts Nov. 1, 2019 – Jan. 23, 2020
Minnesota Nov. 1, 2019 – Dec. 23, 2019
New York Nov. 1, 2019 – Jan. 31, 2020
Rhode Island Nov. 1, 2019 – Dec. 23, 2019
Washington DC Nov. 1, 2019 – Jan. 31, 2020

Can you sign up for health insurance after open enrollment?

You may be wondering what happens if you do not apply for a healthcare plan during the OEP. For the majority of people, it means that for 2020, you may miss out on health insurance coverage. 

However, there is a special enrollment period (SEP). It’s a time outside the regular enrollment period where some individuals can apply for health coverage. You are eligible for an SEP if you experienced a qualifying life event (QLE) that prevented you from getting a healthcare plan by the enrollment deadline. 

Some qualifying events that can make a person eligible for an SEP include getting married or changing your home address, having a baby, or losing health insurance through a job. You have 60 days from the date of a qualifying life event to enroll in a healthcare plan, otherwise you will have to wait until the next OEP to purchase a plan. 

It’s worth noting that anyone can apply for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) at any time throughout the year. If you require temporary coverage—for example, if you’re in between jobs—you may be eligible for a short-term limited duration insurance plan. 

Under the Trump administration, these short-term limited duration insurance plans, which are for periods under 12 months, have been expanded to compete with traditional insurance options found on healthcare marketplaces. 

Is there a penalty for no health insurance in 2020?

When the ACA was first introduced in 2010, it had a significant impact on U.S. tax law, with a combination of penalties, fines, and tax credits. 

Originally, if you did not have health insurance coverage for at least nine months of the year, you would have to pay additional tax. However, under the Trump administration, this tax was eliminated. As of 2019, if you do not purchase health insurance you will not have to pay additional tax. 

That said, there are some states that enforce their own penalties for not having health insurance. Individuals in New Jersey, the District of Columbia, and Massachusetts can face tax penalties for not maintaining insurance.

How does the ACA affect my prescription medications?

If you choose to purchase health insurance during the open enrollment period, you’ll quickly notice that not all insurance plans are created equal. How much and what medications are covered can vary significantly between plans. 

That’s why at SingleCare, whether you have insurance or not, you can benefit from our savings card. Show it at the pharmacy where you purchase your medications, and the staff will be able to determine which is the most affordable healthcare option and the most cost effective for you—your insurance price, or the SingleCare price. 

Given that nearly 45 percent of American adults are inadequately insured, you’re not alone if you’re looking for ways to decrease the price of your medication. SingleCare can help you save up to 80% on your prescriptions, even if you have no health insurance. Click here to learn more and start saving on your next refill with our free savings card.