Four ways to apply for health insurance through the marketplace

Are you unsure how to apply for the required health insurance coverage? There are four ways an individual or family can apply. You can apply by mail, online, by phone, or face to face with an assister.

The Affordable Care Act mandates all Americans purchase health insurance or face penalties. If you do not currently have health insurance coverage, one should consider applying for coverage through the new Marketplace.

If you want to have coverage by January 1, 2014, you need to apply by December 23, 2013. Open enrollment, which is the time allowed to apply for coverage, is extended through March 31, 2014. Open enrollment is the time when you are to apply for health insurance coverage. After the end of open enrollment, one would have to apply for health insurance directly through a health insurance company or health insurance agent. If you go directly to the insurance company, you will not receive a tax credit or tax subsidy, if you would have been eligible for one. You would also face the possibility of receiving a penalty for not carrying insurance.

There are four ways you can apply through the Marketplace. You can apply by mail with a paper application and mail it in. Once you mail it in, you will receive an eligibility notice stating whether you are eligible for lower-cost private insurance or whether you are eligible for government insurance like Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Once you receive your eligibility notice you can go online and compare, choose and enroll in a plan or you can call a Customer Service Representative at a call center for assistance.

You can also apply online. To apply online, you go the Marketplace website and set up an account. Next, you will be required to fill out an application with information about your income, household members, current health coverage and more. If your household files more than one tax return, you should contact the CallCenter before you fill out an application. They will direct you on completing your application correctly. Once you have entered your information, you will be able to see what your options are and be able to enroll online.

If you are not comfortable applying by mail or online, you can apply by phone at 1-800-318-2596. As a fourth option, you can contact an in-person assister or navigator.

Michigan State University Extension is providing weekly webinars on how to make a Smart Choice when purchasing health insurance. Each Monday at 9 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. The webinar is held at connect.msu.edu/healthinsurance at no cost.