All of us over a certain age know the lyric from the Eagles’ Hotel California – “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” We’re receiving anecdotal reports that something similar may be true of www.healthcare.gov. Most recently, we heard from a former executive who left her corporate job to launch a related consulting practice, happily so, until she tried to substitute an individual policy, purchased outside the Exchange, for the policy that she had bought through Healthcare.gov.
This should be a simple, seven-step process, according to the web page:
How do I cancel my Marketplace plan for everyone on my application?
If everyone in your household becomes eligible for coverage from another source, like Medicaid or CHIP, you’ll need to cancel your Marketplace plan. Follow these steps to end coverage for everyone enrolled in a plan you bought through the Marketplace:
- Log in to your Marketplace account
- Select My applications & coverage from the menu on the right side of the page
- Select your application under Your existing applications
- On the left side of the screen, select My plans & programs
- Scroll down and select the red button that says End all coverage
- Select an effective date to end your coverage that’s at least 14 days in the future
- Select the red End/Terminate Coverage button
A red Terminated status should appear above the plan you ended.
You can also cancel your plan by phone. Contact the Marketplace Call Center.
For our informant, it was anything but simple. Here’s what she experienced, as told to us:
- Trying without success to cancel her policy as instructed, she eventually reached an enrollment counselor by phone;
- Instead of explaining how to cancel coverage, the counselor –
- Stated that re-enrollment would be automatic, and that,
- Terminating coverage would subject the caller to the individual mandate tax;
- Then, the counselor hung up.
This seems extreme, but not implausible. Automatic 2015 re-enrollment of 2014 insureds is standard operating procedure. There have been plenty of media reports – for example, here, here and here – of difficulties cancelling policies through Healthcare.gov, but we thought those 2013-14 “glitches” actually were glitches. Of course, it’s true that, if an insured, without an applicable exemption, were to cancel her Healthcare.gov policy without substituting other qualifying coverage, she would be assessable for the 2015 coverage months without coverage. And maybe the back end of Healthcare.gov pings the IRS and triggers an assessment if, for any reason, a policy is canceled.
We’re trying to determine whether the recent reports are outliers or if, maybe, cancellation difficulties are a system design element. So, we ask our readers, are you aware of similar situations involving self-employed professionals? Do you know someone who canceled a 2014 policy online by following the web page instructions? Please let us know.