Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com.

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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The lowdown...

  • It can take up to 90 days to be able to use your mandated health insurance plan
  • You can apply for Marketplace health insurance online, by phone, or mail in a paper application
  • You can get coverage back if it terminated but it may not be until the next open enrollment period
  • It can take 60 to 90 days for COBRA coverage to take effect
  • Switching insurers can take up to 30-days, and although there are financial penalties for not maintaining health insurance, you cannot be penalized for having pre-existing conditions

If you are new to having health insurance or have not had a policy in a while, you may not be aware of the current waiting periods there are between getting and using the insurance. Health reform laws have made the waiting periods as minimal as possible, but you should understand that it is never an overnight process.

Get health insurance ASAP by comparing free quotes with your zip code on our site! We’ll show you the best plans with the greatest savings according to your personal medical needs and budget! Click here to get started.

Affordable Care Act and Mandated Health Insurance Coverage

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The attempts to make health services more affordable for everyone has brought about reform that includes what some dislike. Every individual is now required to obtain and maintain health insurance coverage at the risk of an annual tax penalty for every month they are not insured.

Some states have expanded public Medicaid programs to create a safety net for the poorest members, but many states refused expansion, leaving some individuals and families either uncovered or with extremely expensive catastrophic plans.

Many people are new to health insurance plans and need specific answers as to when coverage begins and becomes usable.

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How long does it take for a new employee to get group health insurance?

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Employers are only required to offer health insurance to full-time employees. If you qualify as full-time, they have up to 90 days to enroll you in their group insurance plan. The exact amount of time it takes to get enrolled is up to the employer and insurer they are getting coverage from.

Switching to a new job, or newly entering the workforce can mean having a gap in coverage before benefits kick in; some employers want to make sure that you are going to make it through a probationary period with a new position.

You could be subject to penalties and fees for not having coverage if it takes up to 90 days to become enrolled. You might want to explore temporary coverage options on the ACA marketplace during the time of transition and wait.

How long does an ACA Marketplace application take?

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There are three ways you can find out about your eligibility status for ACA marketplace coverage. You can fill out an online application and get the results nearly immediately. You can then begin to search for the perfect health insurance plan.

You can also contact a representative by phone. They will help you complete the application information and help you find a great plan. You can print off an application, fill it out and send it by US mail. This method takes about two weeks for eligibility results to arrive.

If you or any member of your household is eligible for Medicaid and the CHIP program, your information will be passed along to the proper agency. You may be required to fill out an application for these services in your state. The ACA Marketplace will make best efforts to see that you get the most affordable coverage possible.

Can I use my health insurance right away?

As soon as you are enrolled and receive your card the health insurance is usable for things like:

  • Emergency medical services
  • Doctor visits
  • Preventative screenings and tests
  • Prescription medication, and more

You should read through all of the materials you are given about the health plan you have joined. It will explain all of the detailed information you need about whether you need to see specific doctors within a group, or whether you have a wider choice of providers.

You also need to know what copay, deductible, and annual out-of-pocket limits your plan has. This will help you plan your medical service needs and priorities much easier.

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Can I get my health insurance back if it is terminated for non-payment?

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The easiest way to retain health insurance coverage is to make the monthly premium payments timely. There may be times that things come up and you may have to use what is termed a “grace period.” This is a set amount of time, normally 90 days, in which you are given the time to catch up on payments and get back on track.

There are two ways to qualify for a Marketplace plan grace period; first, you must qualify for advance payments for the of the premium tax credit; second, you must have made at least one full monthly premium for the benefit year. 

If you do not make up the missing payment by the end of the 90 day grace period your insurance will be terminated. You can get it back with no penalty during the next open enrollment. You can even have the same plan if it is still available.

Check and see if your circumstances qualify you for a special enrollment period. Financial hardship and loss of a job can qualify you for catastrophic health plan coverage, which is a little easier on the budget.

Will I be penalized if my health insurance is canceled?

ACA rules and regulations make it more difficult for an insurance company to cancel your policy for frivolous reasons. Falsifying information for your benefit in coverage, nonpayment, and lack of needed information can all be good reasons to find your coverage canceled.

Even if this is the case, the company must give you 30-days notice to either appeal the decision, or find another policy elsewhere.

Is there a waiting period for COBRA coverage?

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Your employer has to offer an extension of your group health insurance benefits for any qualifying event that leads to loss of the coverage. These events could be:

  • Death of the covered spouse
  • Loss of the job
  • Reduction in hours
  • Divorce

You must make the employer aware of the qualifying event within 14 days and they will then have to request the continuing coverage within 30 days to the insurer.

You will be given a 60-day period to decide if you want to opt in for continued COBRA coverage. The cost of the premium is normally higher than the traditional amount. This is because the employer will not be contributing any amount and they tend to charge as much as two percent additional fees for administration of the COBRA.

You will be able to use the COBRA coverage as soon as the first payment is made.

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How much time do I have to get health insurance if my current policy is canceled?

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In order to escape paying the penalty fee. you need to not go without essential health insurance coverage for longer than one or two months. Three months and longer and you will have to pay for each month you have not had plan coverage. The fees are:

  • Up to 2.5 percent of the annual income up to the premium price of a bronze package on the ACA marketplace
  • $695 for each adult and $347.50 per child, with a maximum amount of $2,085
  • To be paid out of any tax return you will receive the following calendar year

Will I have to wait longer for health insurance if I have a pre-existing condition?

ACA regulations make it illegal for insurance companies to deny you coverage, or delay coverage due to a pre-existing health condition. As long as you are paying your premium each month, the insurance cannot be canceled or delayed unless you have committed fraud. Your waiting period will not be any longer than an individual in perfect health.

How long does it take to switch from one health insurance company to another?

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If you are looking to change you and your entire family to a different policy, with a different company, you need to make sure you are accepted to the new plan before canceling the other. It will take up to two weeks for your current plan to be canceled.

If you do not already have a start date for the new plan, you will be without insurance for an undetermined amount of time.

The ACA tries to ensure that the wait for having access to health insurance benefits are as short as possible. An employer must provide you with the opportunity to enjoy the benefits before 90-days time.

Contact a health insurance expert to learn more about the specifics of group benefits. You can also compare free quotes immediately by entering your zip code in the box below!