Updated: 2021-02-16 by
It's not too late! Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) enrollment will be OPEN in Idaho from March 1 to March 31.
Idaho has announced a special enrollment period (SEP) for health plan signups under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). This COVID-related enrollment period will run from March 1 to March 31. Idaho's SEP is significantly shorter than the federal special enrollment period announced by the Biden administration, but it gives uninsured state residents an extra month to find a health plan for 2021.
This website provides information about getting health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including:
- whether you must get health insurance
- what the available plans cover
- how much coverage will cost
- how to sign up for a plan
- how to get help if you need it.
To begin, keep in mind these key points about health insurance in Idaho:
1. You can use the COVID special enrollment period to get covered under the Affordable Care Act, even though open enrollment is over.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Your Health Idaho will be open for new Obamacare signups from March 1 to March 31, 2021. If you are currently uninsured, you can use this special enrollment period to get covered for 2021. To learn more about enrollment, see How To Sign Up for Obamacare in Idaho.
If you already have health insurance. If you're already insured, you can change plans only if you have a "qualifying life event." Otherwise, you must wait until open enrollment for 2022 plans begins in the fall of 2021. To learn whether you qualify for a special enrollment period that will allow you to switch plans, see What Happens If I Missed the Idaho Obamacare Enrollment Deadline?
2. You won’t face a tax penalty for going without health insurance in 2021—but there are big downsides to being uninsured.
Obamacare’s tax penalty went away in 2019. That means that if you didn’t have health insurance coverage in 2020, you won’t have to pay a penalty when you file your taxes this year.
However, even though there's no more tax penalty, think hard about whether it makes sense to forego health insurance. A medical crisis could knock the financial wind from your sails and do more damage than the penalty would. (A study published in 2019 showed that a lapse in health insurance coverage can double a person's chances of ending up in bankruptcy.) Even if you missed open enrollment for 2021, special circumstances may allow you to obtain coverage.
3. Idaho's health insurance marketplace is located at Your Health Idaho.
During open enrollment, or whenever you qualify for a special enrollment period, you can use Your Health Idaho to choose your health insurance plan, apply for cost-saving tax credits, and get other help you need.
To learn more about enrollment, see How Do I Sign Up for Obamacare in Idaho?
4. Average premium rates have remained stable and insurers are sticking with the marketplace, despite the difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic.
For plans offered to individuals and families through Your Health Idaho, overall average health insurance premiums increased just 1%, ranging from an average decrease of 7% for PacificSource plans to an average increase of 5% for SelectHealth plans. And Your Health Idaho added one new insurance provider for 2021. Regence BlueShield of Idaho came on board to make a total of five insurers offering plans through the exchange.
5. Premium subsidies are available to save you money.
Several forms of financial assistance can help you lower your health insurance premiums.
Federal tax credits. The federal government provides help with premium payments for those whose incomes fall between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level. For example, for 2021 health plans, a family of four in Idaho earning as much as $104,800 can qualify for subsidies, as can an individual who earns up to $51,040. Though the subsidies are tax credits, they are automatically deducted from the cost of your premiums each month, as long as you purchase your plan through Your Health Idaho.
Cost-sharing reductions. More than half of the people who purchase coverage through a health insurance exchange receive "cost-sharing reductions" (CSRs). Originally, these were payments the federal government made to insurance companies that allowed them to reduce deductibles and co-payments for lower-income Americans. In 2017, the Trump administration stopped paying for CSRs, but insurers and many state regulators found a creative way to keep the program alive—adding the costs to silver marketplace plans through a practice called “silver loading”—so CSR benefits remain available for 2020 insurance plans.
Keep in mind that cost-sharing subsidies are available only on silver plans. They will automatically reduce your premium if your income is no more than 250% of the federal poverty level. (For 2021 health plans, that means a family of four in Idaho can't earn more than $65,500 and an individual not more than $25,520.) If you think you may qualify, look carefully at costs for the silver plans available at Your Health Idaho while you are shopping for coverage.
Medicaid. If your income is very low, you may qualify for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid in Idaho.
For more information, see Ways to Save Money on Obamacare in Idaho.
6. Beware of insurance plans that don’t comply with the ACA!
In 2018, the Trump administration made it easier to purchase "short-term insurance plans." Short term plans don’t have to cover preexisting conditions or the essential health benefits provided by Obamacare plans. States can make their own rules regarding short-term plans, however, and Idaho has done so, offering two different types of short-term insurance:
- Nonrenewable short-term plans lasting up to 12 months and providing limited benefits.
- Enhanced short-term plans that are renewable for up to 36 months offering more robust coverage than the skimpier plans the Trump administration authorized.
If you’re genuinely caught without health insurance and need it for a few months to cover a new health condition, you might want to consider a true short-term plan to get you through to the next open enrollment period. Otherwise, be careful of plans that don’t meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act and shop around to look for coverage that truly meets your needs.
Remember, if your income is very low, you may qualify for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid in Idaho.
7. You can get help signing up if you need it.
A couple of years back, the Trump administration drastically cut funding for programs that provide help with health insurance enrollment. But the Biden administration is expected to quickly reverse that trend, making it much easier to get the information you need to get covered. To connect with local support resources, see How To Sign Up for Obamacare in Idaho.
You may also be interested in:
Where to go in Idaho to get health plans under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and how to get help with the application process.
Learn whether you must have health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in Idaho.
Learn the five factors that determine what residents of Idaho will pay for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act