Lauren Vagelakos: Options remain to get health coverage

Special to the Gainesville Sun

For most Americans, open enrollment for the health insurance marketplace ended on March 31. However, there are some special cases that allow consumers to finish their insurance application in the marketplace if they were not able to do so before the deadline.

It is important for consumers to fully understand their options when it comes to completing their enrollment, especially given the ever-changing climate that has been health care reform.

Despite information throughout the media, the open enrollment period for the health insurance marketplace was not extended past March 31. Some consumers may still enroll, but only if they fall into special circumstances outlined below. Depending on their situation, consumers need to follow one of these unique post-enrollment processes in order to complete their enrollment past the deadline.

Consumers who were “in-line” by March 31 — that is, attempted to enroll in the online system before the deadline — are still able to complete their application in the Marketplace and gain coverage. To do this, consumers need to attest that they were “in-line” by calling the marketplace call center (available 24/7) at 1-800-318-2596.

It is important that you explain to the call center that you’ve been trying to enroll and why you were not able to complete your application before the March 31 deadline. Once your attestation is reviewed, the call center will be able to activate your application and you may complete your enrollment process.

If you were not able to start your marketplace application before the March 31 deadline for reasons out of your control, you may request a limited circumstance special enrollment period. To request such a period, you must also call the marketplace call center at 1-800-318-2596.

The call center will ask you a variety of questions to determine if you are eligible. If you are determined eligible, the call center will allow you to complete enrollment and you will be able to select an insurance plan within 60 days.

Whatever your enrollment situation may be, keep in mind that the time to complete these processes is limited. It is important that consumers are empowered to take their enrollment situation into their own hands, and that applicants advocate for themselves through the marketplace call center if they want to be granted a special enrollment period.

If no action is taken, consumers will not be able to select a plan and complete enrollment until the next open enrollment period on November 15 for 2015 coverage.

Just as they were available to assist consumers throughout open enrollment, the navigators are still here to assist North Central Floridians with questions and with extra guidance on these unique post-enrollment processes.

To contact a navigator in your area, visit http://ncfnavigators.org/. The navigators are here to help inform North Central Floridians of their options so that consumers can gain timely health coverage for themselves and their family after the deadline.

Lauren Vagelakos is project coordinator of WellFlorida Council’s navigator program for Alachua County and 14 other counties in North Central Florida.

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WellFlorida Council, Inc. is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization created in 1969. We are the state designated local health council for 16 counties in North Central Florida and specialize in health-related consultancy for clients and projects throughout Florida.

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