Picture of a couple in front of a chapel about to get marriedWe’re now a little more than 2 weeks out from the end of the health insurance open enrollment period and It’s starting to look as if the Obama administration will not extend the March 31st deadline.

The inaugural open enrollment period has been plagued by technical difficulties and a great deal of public misunderstanding. However, enrollment numbers for January came in above expectations and a new Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index poll finds that the number of uninsured Americans is dropping. President Obama and his supporters believe that a large group of healthy procrastinators will hop on board in the next two weeks.

What If They Don’t

But, what if the young and healthy procrastinators don’t sign up for health insurance coverage by the March 31st deadline? What if you, personally, just couldn’t find the time to enroll in coverage before the end of the month?

If you fail to sign up for health coverage in the next two weeks, you may regret it! The next open enrollment period will not begin until November 15th, 2014 – that’s a long way away. First, you will have to wait until November to buy a health plan. Second, you will be responsible for paying a non-compliance penalty when you file your taxes next spring.

There is one exception to the rule, however.

You’ll Need A Qualifying Life Event

After March 31st and until November 15th, you will not be able to buy health coverage through the exchanges or through private carriers unless you experience a qualifying life event (QLE). A QLE makes you eligible for a special enrollment period, of usually 60 days, that allows you to get the coverage that best meets your recently changed needs.

Qualifying life events include:

  • A change in your legal martial status (i.e. if you get married, or divorced);
  • Having, adopting, or placement for adoption of a child;
  • Moving to a new state;
  • The loss of employer-sponsored benefits (this does not count as a QLE if you quit or are fired from your job);
  • Other changes in income that affect your eligibility for health coverage subsidies or Medicaid coverage.

If you anticipate a QLE after March 31st, you must contact an agent or an insurance carrier to be granted a special enrollment period. Also, after a phone call with the Health Insurance Marketplace, I was able to confirm that subsidies will still be available to those with a QLE outside of the open enrollment period.


Photos provided by: Ashley Steeby Photography