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Enrolling in the Health Insurance Marketplace: A How-To Guide for Individuals

By Mark Bailey, Jr.
Published August 8, 2013

Woman enrolling in health insurance marketplace. Asking "Am I doing this right"

With enrollment in the health insurance marketplaces rapidly approaching, there are several steps you can take right now to be ready to sign up when October 1st rolls around.

You heard right. Open enrollment in the health insurance marketplaces begins on Oct.1, 2013, and medical coverage begins as early as Jan. 1, 2014. The last possible day to enroll in the marketplace during the open enrollment period is March 31, 2014. Starting in October, there will be four steps to obtaining coverage through the Marketplaces.
What it looks like to sign up for health insurance marketplace

  1. Set up an account. You’ll provide some basic information to get started, like your name, address and email address. You can actually complete this step now by going to
  2. Fill out on online application. You’ll provide information about you and your family, such as income, household size, current health coverage information and more. This will help the Marketplace find options that meet your needs.
  3. Compare your options. You’ll be able to see all the options for you and your family, including private insurance plans and free and low-cost coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The Marketplace will tell you if you qualify for lower costs on your monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs on deductibles, copayments and coinsurance. You’ll see details on costs and benefits before you choose a plan.
  4. Enroll. After you choose a plan, you can enroll online and decide how you pay your premiums to your insurance company. If you or a member of your family qualifies for Medicaid or CHIP, a representative will contact you to enroll. Help should be available if you have questions along the way.

Get This Information Together Now

When you apply for coverage in a Marketplace, you’ll need to provide some information about you and your household. It’s a good idea to get this information together now so that you are ready when the time comes to enroll. Items required to enroll include:

  • Social Security Numbers (or document numbers for legal immigrants)
  • Employer and income information for every member of your household who needs coverage (for example, from wage and tax statements such as pay stubs or Forms W-2)
  • Policy numbers for any current health insurance plans covering members of your household
  • A completed worksheet—called an Employer Coverage Tool—for every job-based plan you or someone in your household is eligible for. You’ll need to fill out this form even for coverage you’re eligible for but don’t enroll in. You can download a copy of the Employer Coverage tool here.

a picture of the employer coverage tool

What If I Need Help Enrolling?

The launch of an entirely new system for obtaining health insurance is an extremely complex undertaking. The Marketplace will offer several kinds of assistance to help you apply for coverage and choose a plan that meets your needs:

What it looks like to live chat with the health insurance marketplace

You will also be able to obtain help from people in your area who are trained and certified to help you understand your health insurance options and enroll in a plan. If you happen to be in the North Florida, our individual health team can sit down with you to help you apply for coverage and answer any questions you may have. Plan on paying a visit to the Marketplace help center if you’d like to find assistance in your geographic area.

Get Updates by Email or Text

An email I received from the health insurance marketplace

Want to stay up-to-date on key dates, news and updates related to the marketplace? You can sign up for email and text updates now. I know what you’re thinking. “Great. Another spam email cluttering my inbox.” Trust me. I hate spam as much as you do, but I’ve actually found the emails from the marketplace to be helpful and educational. I do see one get delivered about once a week. So if you think that’ll drive you nuts, don’t sign up. We’ll also be posting a ton of useful content for you to prepare for the marketplace and learn more about the Affordable Care Act right here. If you have any questions about the health insurance marketplace we didn’t cover in this post, leave a comment below. I’ll have our individual health team take a look at it and get back to you ASAP!

Mark Bailey, Jr. is the Senior Marketing Manager of NFP's Atlantic region. Before joining the company, Mark was a production assistant on the tv show Glee and an on-air talent on 95.1 WAPE. He has over 10 years of experience in the insurance and corporate benefits space. Mark is an avid Jacksonville Jaguars fan and loves to spend his free time building custom mechanical keyboards.