Q. If someone will be seeking insurance options on a health care exchange before the next open enrollment period because her COBRA plan is expiring, where does she find information about insurance plan options?
A. Although the open enrollment period to sign-up for health insurance on a state exchange ended March 31 for most people, the exchanges didn’t shut down. You should still be able to log on and check out plans through the federal healthcare.gov and state exchange websites, says Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)
Because open enrollment has ended, however, only people who have experienced a “qualifying life event” or who ran into serious trouble this spring trying to sign up for coverage online can sign up between now and the next open enrollment period, which begins Nov. 15 for 2015 coverage.
As you note, the expiration of your COBRA benefits creates a special enrollment opportunity, as does marriage, having a baby, moving to another state or becoming a citizen, among other things. People typically have 60 days from the date of the event to sign up for a plan on the exchange.
In addition, if your coverage was derailed or delayed during regular open enrollment because of a marketplace glitch — if the posted information about your plan was inaccurate, for example — you may qualify for a special enrollment period as well.
Even though enrollment on the state marketplaces has ended for regular private plans, it’s important to remember that there’s no cutoff date for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. If you live in a state that has expanded Medicaid coverage to adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (currently $16,105 for an individual), or if you become eligible because of pregnancy or another reason, you can sign up anytime through a marketplace website.