Countdown to Coverage: Key Dates and How the ACA Affects You

The latest

Kaiser Health Tracking Poll

revealed that 51 percent of Americans feel they don’t have enough information about the ACA to understand how it will impact them and their family.

We hope that share will drop  in the coming months as the roll out of new Health Insurance Marketplaces in October  brings with it stepped-up news coverage, marketing, and outreach (in fact the poll already shows an uptick over two months ago in the share of the public who’ve heard about new Health Insurance Marketplaces).

If you are among the 51 percent of Americans who need more information on how Obamacare will affect you, we recommend checking out a couple of great resources from the Kaiser Family Foundation. You'll also want to be aware of some key dates below.

First, if you only have 7 minutes available to learn about the ACA, consider spending it watching “The YouToons Get Ready For Obamacare.”  It’s a short, understandable video that explains upcoming changes and helps people understand their coverage options, including job-based coverage, Medicare, Medicaid, and the new Marketplace.

Second, KFF’s subsidy calculator is an interactive tool that lets you enter information on your age, family size, and income and then get an estimate of the premiums YOU will pay and how much subsidy help you will get in the new Health Insurance Marketplace.

Finally, if you plan to look for coverage in the new Health Insurance Marketplace, you’ll want to keep a couple of key dates in mind.

October 1, 2013 – March 31, 2014 = Open Enrollment in the Marketplace

Open enrollment is the time of the year when people can enroll in plans in the Marketplace.  In this first year, open enrollment will last 6 months.  You cannot enroll outside of open enrollment unless you have a “qualifying life event”—a change in your life including marriage, divorce, child birth, loss of job-based coverage, and loss of Medicaid or CHIP coverage.

(Note:  Small businesses with 50 or fewer  employees can buy a new plan at any time during the year; open and closed enrollment times apply only to individuals and families who buy directly from insurers in the Marketplace.)

December 15, 2013 – Enrollment Deadline for Coverage Effective January 1

If you enroll any time between October 1, 2013 and December 15, 2013 and make your first premium payment, your new health coverage will start on January 1, 2014.

(During the rest of open enrollment, if you enroll between the 1st and 15th day of the month and pay your premium, your coverage will begin on the first day of the next month. For example, if you enroll on January 12, 2014, your coverage begins February 1, 2014.  If you enroll between the 16th and the last day of the month and pay your premium, your coverage will begin on the first day of the second following month. For example, if you enroll on January 17, 2014, your coverage will start on March 1, 2014.)

January 1, 2014 – First Day New Coverage Can Start

January 1, 2014 is the first day coverage sold in the Marketplace will take effect for people who enrolled by December 15, 2013.

Written by: Stacey Pogue, Center for Public Policy Priorities. Cross-posted from the Better Texas blog.