Whether you are a student looking to apply for financial aid, an employee needing to update your benefits at work, a retiree wanting to switch your Medicare plan, or anyone needing to enroll in health insurance coverage through the Marketplace exchange, now is the time to gather your documents and your wits and tackle the task!
Students - FAFSA filing season opens October 1
If you are a parent of a soon to be college student, or a soon to be college student, there are a number of important filings that need to be attended to. Even if you are unsure that your family will qualify for financial aid, it is important to complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible once the form becomes available. The FAFSA is used to determine Federal student aid such as grants, loans and work study options. It is also used by many schools in determining non-need based merit aid. This year, the FAFSA became available on October 1st.
Employee Benefits Open Enrollment
If you have a job that offers Employer Sponsored Benefits such as health insurance, life insurance, flexible spending accounts for health care and child care, the window of time to make changes to these benefits usually takes place during the fall months, depending upon your employer. This is a good time to review your family's life and disability insurance needs, consider whether a health savings account and high deductible health plan is right for you and learn about all the benefits your employer offers.
Retirees - Focus on Medicare
Medicare Open Enrollment runs between October 15 and December 7. This is the time to make changes to your coverage, switch Advantage plans, change your Part D (Drug benefits) plan or enroll in any part of Medicare outside of your initial enrollment period near your 65th birthday or when you stop working for an employer who offers qualifying insurance coverage.
Everyone Else - Do you need health care coverage?
Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace Open Enrollment has a very short window in 2018 if you want to enroll for next year. Enrollment begins on November 1 and ends on December 15. Covered California is a little more generous and is offering an enrollment period beginning October 15, 2018 and running through January 15, 2019. The open enrollment period is the time to make changes to your plan or enroll in coverage for the first time. The only way to enroll in Marketplace coverage outside of the open enrollment period is if you have a qualifying special life event such as losing your job, having a baby, moving to a new state, losing a spouse or aging out of coverage on a parent plan.
Jennipher Lommen is a Certified Financial Planner TM and Enrolled Agent who offers comprehensive financial planning and tax advice to clients in Santa Cruz, CA and beyond.