Q. My pre-Affordable Care Act individual health policy runs from May 2013 to May 2014. Will I be able to sign up for an exchange policy to begin May 1, 2014?
A. Yes, when your individual plan comes up for renewal you have a limited window starting 30 days before your policy year ends to sign up for a marketplace plan, says Sabrina Corlette, project director at Georgetown University's Center on Health Insurance Reforms.
But you don't have to wait to switch until your policy year ends, say experts.
“It would behoove this person to look on the exchanges now,” says Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “He might find a better policy and be eligible for subsidies.” (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)
The open enrollment period during which you can shop for coverage runs through the end of March.
If you decide to wait until May to sign up for a marketplace plan, be prepared to re-enroll or pick a new plan again during open enrollment next fall, however. Having done that you'll be on the same enrollment schedule as everyone else in the individual market.
There's one other wrinkle that you should be aware of. You may not have to buy a marketplace plan if you don't want to. If your insurer offers to renew it and your state allows it, you can hang onto your non-ACA compliant plan for a few more years. On Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that such plans can continue for two more years. Plan years beginning on or before Oct. 1, 2016 can be renewed, the new rule says, meaning that some consumers may be able to hold onto pre-ACA coverage until October 2017.