I always hear this Obamacare complaint when someone wants health insurance now that open enrollment season is over: "Why can't I just get insurance anytime?" It's usually followed by, "Don't you want my money?" or "Stupid Obama. He ruined everything." Harsh.
Open enrollment is the period when someone can sign up for health insurance since the Affordable Care Act passed. Last year, it was October 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014 (deadline extensions included).
Its intention is to save individuals and insurance companies from financial ruin, not create it.
Imagine if there wasn't open enrollment. Sure, everyone could get insurance at anytime. It would be beneficial to insurance agents, providers, sick people. Even President Obama might see a popularity boost; at least in the beginning.
But if anyone could sign up for health insurance at anytime, more people would take advantage of the system. You're probably thinking someone always takes advantage of the system, like before the ACA, when medical bills of the uninsured were paid by taxpayers.
Under the ACA, at least the individual mandate means getting insurance during open enrollment or paying a penalty. Essentially everyone contributes their fair share now.
This scenario always comes to mind if open enrollment didn't exist: a healthy person is uninsured but gets sick. The individual signs up for an expensive plan and pays for it as long as it covers the expensive medical costs. Then upon feeling better, the individual switches to a cheaper plan with less benefits or drops coverage entirely.
What happened to the insurance company this whole time? The individual only paid for a few months of insurance premiums but received expensive treatment. If everyone did that, every insurance company would be a sucker.
Not only would insurance companies suffer: everyone who gets insurance would see insurance premiums rise. How else would insurance companies pay for everyone's expensive treatments if everyone switched to cheaper plans or dropped coverage at their convenience?
Not only does open enrollment exist to prevent the system from getting screwed, but during open enrollment, a monthly insurance deadline remains in place for the same reason.
Monthly deadlines are when an individual can sign up to start coverage the following month.
Picking a plan between the 1st and the 14th of the month guarantees the plan would go into effect the 1st of the following month and no sooner. Signing up between the 15th and the end of the month would mean the plan starts not next month but the month after that on the 1st.
If an individual has insurance and wants to switch, it will always take at least two weeks to process, essentially forcing a gap month or longer to occur.
If an individual calls an insurance company and asks to switch plans, the new plan would always start the next month or later. During that gap, the individual would still have to pay for the current plan if he or she wanted to keep it. There would always be the option to cancel the current plan and become uninsured during the gap month instead.
Deadlines and open enrollment exist to incentivize individuals to keep an insurance plan, not risk being uninsured, and minimize switching between cheaper and expensive plans at the individual's convenience.
Open enrollment starts again November 15, 2014. Some special qualifying life events allow people to get insurance now, even after the open enrollment deadline. Complaining about Obama isn't one of them.