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Small Business Employee Benefits and HR Blog

What Small Business Owners Need to Know About Open Enrollment 2015

September 12, 2014
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open_enrollmentOpen enrollment for individual health insurance is coming up in November. If you are a small business owner, you might be wondering how this will affect you, your employees, your family, and your business. This article reviews what small business owners need to know about open enrollment 2015. This includes dates, special enrollment periods, and auto enrollment.

If you are looking for health insurance coverage in 2015, the open enrollment period will run from November 15, 2014 to February 15, 2015. During open enrollment 2015, you and your employees can select a new individual health insurance policy, or switch policies for coverage that better fits their needs.

This is great news if you missed the last open enrollment period that ended on March 31, 2014, missed your window to sign up during a special enrollment period, (more on special enrollment periods below) or want to change your policy or coverage.

For example, if you feel you are paying too much month-to-month, you may choose to switch to a policy with a higher deductible and a lower premium. Alternatively,if you are spending more on out-of-pocket medical costs than you had anticipated in 2014, you may wish to switch to a higher premium with more comprehensive coverage.

Important Dates for Open Enrollment 2015

The specific annual open enrollment and special enrollment periods for individual health insurance are new as of 2014. This is to ensure that individuals don’t wait until they get sick, or are in need of an expensive medical procedure to enroll in coverage or switch to a more comprehensive policy. Here are important dates to remember about signing up for individual health insurance:

  • March 31, 2014: Open Enrollment for 2014 ended

  • November 15, 2014: Open Enrollment for coverage in 2015 begins

  • February 15, 2015: Open Enrollment for coverage in 2015 ends

Special Enrollment Periods

Aside from the annual open enrollment periods, you may purchase a new individual health insurance policy, or switch your existing policy if you experience a “Qualifying Life Event.” Qualifying Life Events can include the following circumstances for an individual:

  • Making a permanent move to another state

  • Marriage

  • Divorce

  • Birth/adoption of a child

  • Gaining citizenship

  • Returning from active military duty

  • Being released from incarceration

  • Changing dependent status after turning 26

  • Losing full-time employment status

  • Losing employer-sponsored insurance

  • Being determined newly eligible or ineligible for advance premium tax credits, regardless of whether the individual is already enrolled in a qualified health plan

Unless otherwise specified, an enrollee has 60 days from the trigger of a Qualifying Life Event to select a policy.

Think Before Auto Enrollment

Under the new auto enrollment ruling, Marketplace enrollees who do not indicate otherwise will be re-enrolled in their current Marketplace plan on December 15, 2014. This delay in re-enrollment will give consumers additional time during open enrollment 2015 to explore their health insurance options.

If you have already purchased a Marketplace policy, weigh all your options before you allow your policy to auto enroll. This is vital to ensure that you are getting the best deal on health insurance.

2014’s premium tax credits were based upon rates of the second lowest cost silver plans on the Marketplace. Since last year’s second lowest cost plan probably won't be the same this year, your premiums could go up while your tax credit amount stays the same. Since the premium tax credits are based on household income, family size, and region, you should report any changes to ensure that their 2015 premium tax credit estimate is accurate.

As the Marketplace enters the second year of operation, more major health insurance carriers are entering the Marketplace or expanding their presence in the Marketplace. This news means you will have more individual health plans to choose from, and more competition in many of the state Marketplaces. This increased competition among carriers will help to keep rates down in 2015.

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