Entrepreneurs and small business owners: Open enrollment is underway!

This year we’ve seen how important it is for small business owners, their employees and their families to have access to health coverage. If you or your employees need to enroll in or renew your health insurance plans for 2021 through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual marketplace, your time is here. This open enrollment season is taking place from November 1 to December 15, and many will be eligible for premium assistance to help offset the cost of coverage.

Here are some key facts to keep in mind as you consider shopping for coverage:

1. Open enrollment ends on December 15. 

Open enrollment will continue until December 15, with coverage starting on January 1, 2021. If you miss the deadline for 2021, you’ll have to wait until the enrollment period begins for 2022 (unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period).

2. You don’t have to go it alone. 

While the federal government has reduced the budget for ACA “navigators,” unbiased groups that help people enroll in marketplace coverage, there are still many fantastic resources out there to help you enroll. Check out our resources here on Venturize.org, or visit Healthcare.gov's Find Local Help Tool to see if in-person assistance is available near you. 

3. You may be eligible for financial assistance to lower the cost of your premiums. When you apply for health coverage, Healthcare.gov will tell you if you qualify for premium tax credits or free or low-cost health coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). 

4. There are multiple ways to enroll.

You can enroll online at Healthcare.gov, over the phone or in-person, if enrollment assistance is available near you. If your state runs its own website, Healthcare.gov will help guide you to the right place. You can start by visiting Healthcare.gov or CuidadodeSalud.gov or calling the marketplace call center at 1-800-318-2596.

5. Health insurance is no longer mandatory, but it’s still important to check out your options and get covered. 

Though Congress repealed the individual mandate penalty at the federal level, you may have a penalty for not having health insurance if you live in one of the following areas: 

  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • Vermont
  • California
  • Rhode Island
  • District of Columbia (Washington D.C.)

It is strongly advised that small business owners and freelance entrepreneurs enroll in a healthcare plan, especially now that we are in the midst of a global public health crisis. Having health insurance helps protect both your health and financial security by ensuring you’re protected against an unexpected healthcare scare and might make a difference between staying healthy and keeping your business. 

6. If you purchase small group coverage for yourself and employees, it’s also important to remember that small businesses are no longer able to shop online for a group plan through Healthcare.gov. You can still use the site to compare plans and verify eligibility for tax credits, but will then need to work with a broker or agent or purchase directly through a carrier. You can learn more about small group coverage here

And if you have additional questions about the ACA or health coverage, check out our recent on-demand webinar, or you can join our online community forum to ask questions and engage with fellow business owners and experts from business organizations and advocacy groups.