National open enrollment and special enrollment periods
National open enrollment is the time of year when people can enroll in a health insurance policy for the following calendar year. Outside of open enrollment, you can only purchase major medical insurance if you've experienced a qualifying life event.
Some common qualifying life events:
- Having a baby, adopting a child, or placing a child in foster care
- Getting married
- Involuntarily losing health coverage (aging out of a parent's policy, losing coverage provided by an employer, losing coverage due to divorce)
- Moving to an area with different policies available
- Changes in your income that affect the coverage you qualify for
For a complete list, please see: Getting 2018 coverage with a Special Enrollment Period
Short-term medical policies
If you find yourself outside of open enrollment and don't qualify for a special enrollment period, you can still purchase a form of coverage called short-term medical insurance. Short-term policies work the same way as traditional insurance but include more limitations. We suggest checking out the policies available through eHealth, an insurance marketplace similar to healthcare.gov, to see if a policy will work for you and your family. See also: What is a short-term medical (STM) policy?
There are other coverage options, such as ministry sharing programs that won't be eligible to be reimbursed but may still work well for your family.
If you choose those coverage types or even choose to have no coverage at all you can still use your benefit allowance to cover medical expenses like doctor visits, prescriptions, glasses, or even sunscreen. The choice is up to you.
Note: Reimbursements made to you or a family member who didn't have minimum essential coverage (MEC) health insurance at the time of the expense may be included in your gross income for tax purposes. See: Minimum essential coverage (MEC)