by Lauren Mandel and Elizabeth Fay
Obamacare Open Enrollment for individuals starts on November 1. You’ve browsed around for a new plan, discussed your budget with your family, and know you’ll feel prepared to enroll in the right coverage by the time that date arrives.
But as we enter the third year of Open Enrollment under the Affordable Care Act, there are a few changes you should expect and prepare for before the deadline hits.
New Key Dates
While last year’s Open Enrollment also started in November, this year’s enrollment period has shifted a bit. You can start your enrollment on November 1, 2015, but you must have new coverage by January 31, 2016.
Changing Premium Rates
Premium rates nationwide are increasing an average of 4 percent. However, don’t assume you’ll be paying more for coverage: Changes to rates vary depending on location, from a 10 percent decrease in Seattle to a 29 percent increase in Minneapolis. Be sure to evaluate all of your options before enrolling in a plan.
Tax Penalty Increases
All Americans are required to have health insurance, and the fine for going uninsured is increasing this year. If you choose to go without health insurance in 2016, you will face a fine of $695 or 2.5 percent of your income, whichever is great. That’s up from $325 or 2 percent of your income from last year.
Tax Subsidy Changes
Most shoppers will qualify for financial assistance from the federal government to help pay for their health insurance. This year, the income ranges to qualify for financial assistance have changed slightly, so be sure to receive your tax subsidy estimate before enrolling in a plan.