- Health Insurance Basics
What if I need coverage that starts right away?
If you don’t have coverage now and need it right away, you have several options. Your options are different based on whether enrollment is open.
Getting covered during Open Enrollment
- Apply for Marketplace coverage: There are several ways to sign up for Marketplace plans, but applying online is the quickest way to get covered. The Marketplace will tell you if you qualify for lower costs on coverage. It will also tell you if you qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
- Direct Enrollment: You can buy a Marketplace plan directly from an insurance company, with the help of a broker or agent, or using an online service. These are good choices for people who don’t qualify for lower costs based on their household size and income.
- Individual insurance outside of the Marketplace: Many insurance companies offer Marketplace plans outside the Marketplace that meet the health law’s standards for coverage. You can’t get lower costs based on your income if you buy a non-Marketplace plan. You can use our Plan Finder website to get information on non-Marketplace plans available in your area and compare costs and benefits. You can also buy non-Marketplace plans directly from an insurer, with the help of a broker or agent, or using an online service.
- Community Health Centers: If you can’t afford a health plan or can’t wait until coverage begins, you can get low-cost care at a Community Health Center near you.
How soon coverage can start
If you enroll in a Marketplace plan by the 15th of the month, your coverage can start as soon as the 1st of the next month. If you enroll after the 15th, your coverage can start as soon as the month after that.
Remember: Open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace ends March 31, 2014. The next proposed open enrollment period, for 2015 coverage, runs from November 15, 2014 to January 15, 2015.
Getting covered outside of Open Enrollment
- Outside open enrollment, you can enroll in a private insurance plan inside the Marketplace only if you have a special enrollment period due to a qualifying life event. Learn more about how to know if you’re eligible to enroll outside Open Enrollment.
- You can enroll in Medicaid or CHIP any time. There’s no special open enrollment period for Medicaid or CHIP. You can apply by filling out a Marketplace application or by directly contacting your state Medicaid/CHIP agency. To find your state agency, use the Medicaid link above and scroll down to the bottom of the page and choose your state from the dropdown menu.
- If you work for a small employer offering a new coverage opportunity outside the Marketplace open enrollment period, you can enroll during that plan’s enrollment period.