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When can you start using your health insurance?

A brief overview...
  • Open enrollment largely determines when the new health insurance policy that you have signed up for begins
  • Enrolling between the first and the fifteenth of the month will put the plan into effect on the first day of the following month
  • Enrolling between the sixteenth and last day of the month will mean that the plan will come into effect on the first day of the second month

With many people having the mistaken belief that their health insurance policy is valid the day that they sign the contract, this article aims to set the record straight. Here are a few basic principles to help you better understand this topic before we dive into the finer details.

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Canceling a Health Policy and Getting a New One

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Under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, you cannot just sign up for insurance at any point during the year unless you experience a qualifying life event. This means that you cannot just wait until you get sick or are injured to go out and purchase health insurance. It simply does not work that way.

To begin, if you are outside the enrollment period, you will have to wait until you are permitted to sign up for a new policy. In addition, there is a period of time after signing up that you will need to wait before the benefits of the policy actually begin to kick in.

While you are permitted to cancel your health insurance at any time, you will find that you cannot always immediately sign up for a new one. Because of this, it is recommended that you keep your existing health insurance policy until the next open enrollment period, or ensure that you can qualify for a special enrollment period due to a covered life event.

Some common qualifying life events for health insurance enrollment are:

  • Switching jobs
  • Having a new baby (this includes an adoption)
  • Moving to town or state that has a new zip code

Knowing this information up front can help you make a more informed decision when it comes to purchasing health insurance.

Using Your Health Insurance Policy

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Once you sign up for health insurance, it is important to understand what it takes to keep it active and how to use it. As you compare policies, keep in mind that every health insurance company has different policies and regulations governing the issuance of benefits. You will want to pay particular attention to the benefits and limitations of your plan before you sign up.

There will be some plans, for example, that will require you to see a certain doctor or go to a particular hospital. You will want to make these switches during the time that you sign up and the day that you are able to actually start using your policy.

As soon as your benefits begin to kick in, you will be able to use your health insurance card to receive a wide array of medical services.

Benefits for medical services will be available from day one. These will be paid at 100 percent of the actual cost, so you want to make sure you available yourself of these. That goes for everyone covered under your policy as well. Basic and essential medical services currently covered under the Affordable Care Act include the following:

  • Emergency services
  • Ambulance related services
  • Hospitalization
  • Maternity care both before and after the birth
  • Services for mental health and substance use disorders
  • Certain types of prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitation services for a variety of physical and mental ailments
  • Laboratory Services
  • Wellness and prevention check-ups
  • Pediatric services
  • Certain immunizations

Just make sure you stay with the right doctor and that you use the network you have been assigned to when using your health insurance. If you have questions about when you are eligible to use certain benefits included in your policy, you can always call the telephone number on the back of your card for some assistance.

Use the Proper Network

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Regardless of when you are able to begin using your particular health insurance plan, you will want to make sure you understand who your provider contracts their services with. If you go to see a doctor that is outside of this network, you will almost certainly need to pay more out-of-pocket.

This is particularly helpful information in the event that you find yourself in need of medical care and you are currently outside the geographical reach of your health insurance provider. In that case, you will want to contact them and get their approval to see a doctor or go to a hospital in your area. This will likely save you a great deal of money in the long run.

Remember that some insurance companies will have a clause in their policy that gets them out of paying for any medical services that you receive outside of their network unless it is determined to be an emergency.

Providers within the network will typically contact with your insurance company, so you will just pay them any necessary co-payments and then be on your way. The insurance company will take care of the rest.

Understand Your Policy Now for a Healthier Future

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If you are currently looking to switch health insurance providers, it is important to wait to do so until the next open enrollment period. That will keep you insured for the duration. You will want to begin comparing policies as early on in the process as possible, choose the one that you want, and get covered early in the month. This will allow your new coverage to kick in on the first day of the following month.

The same is also true if you are currently without health insurance. Just be ready when the next open enrollment period comes around and get signed up.

A small budget or special medical needs doesn’t mean you have to settle for less; enter your zip code below and get a free online health insurance quotes comparison through our special tool!

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