9 of 10 Americans Don't Know This Secret About Obamacare

Prescription drugs and medications.

You probably don't know something really important about Obamacare, especially if you're on COBRA. The last time I wrote about the Affordable Care Act, which everyone knows by its more popular name of Obamacare, I talked about a gap that exists for people who are on COBRA because they lost their jobs. Once you're on COBRA, you can't switch to a more affordable plan under the Affordable Care Act until the next open enrollment. I asked you, my readers, for help and we reached out to the Administration and got a short term fix. Until July 1, 2014, you were allowed to switch outside the open enrollment period.

While I would have preferred a permanent fix allowing you to switch anytime from crazy expensive COBRA, this short term fix helped. The other thing the Administration did was add to COBRA notices that you should check out Affordable Care Act coverage as an alternative.So what's the secret? It isn't really a "secret," in that it's public information. But a recent poll says 9 out of 10 Americans don't know this important fact, so it's a secret for all practical purposes. The secret is this:

If you are on COBRA and can't afford to stay on it, you don't like the plan you're on or if you're just plain uninsured, the next Affordable Care Act open enrollment period starts November 15, 2014. That means you can switch plans anytime between November 15, 2014 and the end of the open enrollment period, which is February 15, 2015. After that, if you lose your job and elect COBRA coverage, you may not be able to switch from COBRA until the next open enrollment.

Shopping early pays off, because it will take awhile to get covered, according to the Affordable Care Act website:

During Open Enrollment, if you enroll:

  • Between the 1st and 15th days of the month, your coverage starts the first day of the next month.
  • Between the 16th and the last day of the month, your coverage starts the first day of the second following month. So if you enroll on January 16, your coverage starts on March 1.
Once you miss the open enrollment, you'll only qualify for the special enrollment period if you get married, lose your job, or give birth to a child.

Start on the Affordable Care Act website here. If you're looking to replace an employer plan, I suggest looking at the gold/platinum level plans first and trying to find one closes to the coverage you have (make sure your doctors accept it) so you can compare apples to apples and see whether it's less expensive than the plan you are on now. I'm pretty sure it will be.

Obamacare has been a life saver, literally, for people who lose their jobs and can't afford to pay their COBRA premiums. Now is the time to start shopping for your new insurance plan.

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