Worried you can’t afford ACA insurance? Here are some comforting facts.

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Record-breaking numbers of people of signing up for insurance on the ACA Marketplace this year, despite Trump and Congressional Republican’s unrelenting attempts to undermine the law. The looming threat of losing Marketplace insurance has galvanized people, and pushed them to value the coverage it provides far more than ever.

Of course, the ACA is far from perfect, and insurance rates have continued to increase over the years, while insurers have left the market due to instability, profit margin concerns, or in an attempt to further attack the law. So if you’re looking at your insurance rates for 2018 and experiencing a bit of sticker shock, you’re far from the only one.

If you’re concerned that you won’t be able to afford monthly payments on insurance next year, I’m here to tell you: sign up anyway. You are not on the hook for all 12 months of insurance payments. Should something awful happen to you financially, you can stop paying at any time, without any negative effects. Here are the facts:

  1. You can stop paying at any time. Unlike a phone plan or cable contract, you are not obliged to pay every month. If you stop paying, the insurance stops, and that’s all that happens.
  2. Missing payments does NOT affect your credit score. Insurers cannot report it to any credit agencies.
  3. Missing payments does NOT affect whether you can get coverage the next year, even with the same insurer. The ACA legally prevents insurers from punishing you for missing monthly payments. You can renew the same Blue Cross, Blue Shield plan every year, pay for two months, and then bounce, and they can’t refuse to insure you.
  4. You do NOT accumulate debt on missed payments. If you stop paying for insurance, the insurance plan is cancelled, but there is no charge, and monthly premiums do not pile up.
  5. You are allowed to be uninsured for three months per year, before you have to pay the individual mandate tax. So if you cancel your insurance (or stop paying for it) in October of 2018, you can sign up for insurance beginning on January 1st, 2019, and have no penalty.
  6. Every month you are insured reduces your tax penalty. Even being insured one month is better than nothing at all.

So worst case scenario: You sign up for insurance you cannot afford for the entire you. You get insured for a while, maybe you have a couple of doctors visits you’ve been putting off for years, maybe you get a pap smear. Then, a month or two into the year, you can’t afford the premiums anymore, and you stop paying. You lose that insurance but are not penalized, and can sign up again the next year. Still better than not signing up at all.

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