OK, so the rollout of the health insurance marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act didn't go so smoothly.
Technical glitches and heavy traffic occurred almost right away. Nonetheless, interest in the exchanges hasn't waned. As open enrollment continues, many people will have questions about the marketplaces. Here are some queries I've received from readers.
Q: I have two granddaughters, 20 and 21. One is working part time for a small business and the other is a student. Neither currently has health insurance. If they enroll on the exchange by Dec. 15 and at some future date gain health insurance -- either through marriage, with the spouse's employer offering insurance coverage for the employee's family, or through employment with an employer who provides health insurance to employees -- can they drop out of the exchange? Will there be a penalty for dropping out?
If their status should change in the future -- e.g., change to an employer who does not offer health insurance -- will they be able to obtain insurance in the exchange again? Will they have to wait for an open enrollment period to apply?
A: One of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act is that it creates marketplaces to allow people to buy health insurance not connected to their employment. This means if you don't have a job, lose a job or switch jobs, none of those actions will affect your ability to get access to health insurance and possibly insurance coverage that comes with subsidies to reduce your cost.
So to answer this grandmother, yes, both her grandchildren can get coverage. And if their status changes, they can drop their marketplace coverage. There will not be a penalty if they obtain other insurance. They would be eligible for a special enrollment period, or SEP, which allows people to change their insurance if they have a qualifying life event such as moving to a new state, getting married or divorced, or having a baby.