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Despite the generally gloomy media coverage about Obama Care over the last several months suggesting that it will be greatly weakened or perhaps non-existent in the near future, the Covered California program (the California version of Obama Care) is likely to be both robust and active in 2018. Premiums will be a bit higher on average, but it appears as if the increases will actually be lower than last year’s increases. And there will be about the same number of insurance plans competing for your business.

However, enrollment for 2018 does not open until November. You can’t shop for or sign up for 2018 coverage until then. This post is to let those of you who have had a “special” or “qualifying” event occur in you lives, that you may sign up outside of the normal enrollment period - as long as you act quickly. In most cases special enrollment is only permitted within 60 days of the qualifying event.

What follows is a PARTIAL list of those special events that would allow you to sign up for health insurance under the Covered California program:

You have lost or will soon lose your present health insurance. For example, you lose your present coverage because (a) you no longer qualify for Medi-Cal, (b) you no longer qualify for your employer-provided health insurance, (c) your COBRA coverage is exhausted, (d) you no longer qualify for student health insurance, (e) you have turned 26 and are no longer eligible to be on your parents' coverage plan, or (f) you have turned 19 and are no longer eligible for a child only plan.

You have permanently moved to California from another state, or you have moved from one part of California to another and as a result have gained access to at least one new Covered California health plan.

You have had a baby or adopted a child (including receiving a child in foster care), or you have placed a child for adoption or foster care.

You have gotten married or entered into a domestic partnership.

You have returned from active duty military service, including reserve duty or the California National Guard.

You have been released from jail or prison.

You have become a citizen, a national, or a permanent legal resident.

You are a member of a federally recognized American Indian tribe, in which case you can enroll at any time and may change enrollments once a month.

Some other eligible qualifying life event has occurred — there are a number of other events that might permit special enrollment, some of these events are: you are already enrolled but you become newly eligible for tax credits or cost sharing reductions, you are already enrolled but have lost your enrollment status due to death of a dependent, divorce, legal separation, dissolution of a domestic partnership, or similar event.

Other special events may apply. Check with a qualified agent or with Covered California to determined whether your particular situation qualifies. If one of these events is coming up in your life (say, marriage or a pregnancy), start looking into coverage options now to make sure that you are in a position to choose the best plan for you when the event occurs. And keep in mind, in most cases you have only 60 days after the relevant event to act. Otherwise you will have to wait until the next open enrollment period.

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