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Fix My Finances: What are my health insurance options?

Welcome to Fix My Finances, a Yahoo Finance personal finance series. Each episode, we take a look at one viewer’s financial state of affairs and offer advice, insight and information on a variety of issues, including how to save more, spend less and pay off lingering debt.

In this episode, we flipped the script and had our own Melody Hahm speak with a health insurance expert about some questions that she and our viewers had about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health exchanges. We spoke with Ralph Tornello, a benefits consultant with NY-based Ladmar Associates, about staying on your parents’ health insurance past age 26, special enrollment periods and how to keep your doctor if you switch plans.

Extending your parents’ insurance

Under the Affordable Care Act, children are able to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they turn 26. If you’re not ready to leave your parents’ insurance quite yet, there is an option to stay on until age 29, although not all health insurance companies provide it.

Your parents should check with their employers’ HR departments to see if their companies offers the age extension, says Tornello.

If you can’t get an age 29 extension, you will need to enroll in health insurance to avoid paying a penalty. You can use the subsidy calculator on healthcare.gov to see if you qualify for financial assistance.

Miss the ACA deadline? If you’ve had a major life event, you can still enroll.

If you lose health insurance through your employer

Roughly 150 million Americans get their health insurance through their employer, according to a 2016 Kaiser Family Foundation study. But what happens when you lose your job?

If you become unemployed and are not in the open enrollment period for the ACA health exchanges, there’s a little bit of good news. You’ll still be able to purchase health insurance through the ACA exchanges.

“Losing employer-based coverage will open up a special window for you in which you have exactly 60 days to enroll in coverage,” Tornello says.

Special 60-day enrollment windows open up in event of major life events like job losses, getting married or divorced, having a baby or even moving to a new zip code.

Keeping your doctor

Switching insurances can sometimes mean having to switch doctors. To see if your old doctor is covered by your new insurance, run a disruption report. The disruption report looks at your doctors and finds out which networks they’re apart of, says Tornello.

In a state like New York that only offers HMO and EPO coverage, making sure your doctor is still in-network is especially important since those plans do not offer out-of-network benefits.

“If you do not have a doctor in-network, going to see that doctor would be as if you have no insurance,” Tornello says.

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