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AARP AARP States Rhode Island Health & Wellbeing

How to Sign Up for ACA Health Insurance in Rhode Island

En español | Rhode Islanders are required to have health insurance — and they can face a nearly $700 per person fine each year that they don’t. Those who aren't insured through an employer are eligible to buy high-quality coverage at low or no cost through HealthSource RI, the state’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace.

Open enrollment starts Nov. 1, 2023, for 2024 health insurance coverage. Residents who experience a qualifying life event, such as a marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, a move or lost health insurance, may be eligible to buy or change coverage outside of open enrollment during a special enrollment period.

Most people enrolled in ACA marketplace plans have seen their premiums go down because the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) increased tax credits for insurance premiums and expanded the number of households that qualify for them. Every household that pays more than 8.5 percent of its income qualifies for federal tax credits to help afford health insurance. These enhanced subsidies are available through 2025.

Before the 2021 law, such tax credits were only available to people earning less than a certain salary ($54,360 for one person).

Most Americans with a marketplace plan can save an average of about $800 per year, according to the federal government. HealthSource RI has detailed what the American Rescue Plan means for Rhode Islanders.

HealthSource RI
HealthSource RI homepage

Who is eligible?

  • Rhode Islanders — including legally present immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees —who are not receiving coverage through an employer or a spouse’s employer can buy health insurance through HealthSource RI.
  • You may also qualify for Medicaid, which offers free or low-cost coverage to low-income people and families and has no monthly premium. When you apply for coverage through HealthSource RI, you’ll find out if you qualify for this option.

When can I enroll?

  • During open enrollment, which is closed for 2023 health insurance coverage. It reopens Nov. 1, 2023, for 2024 insurance coverage.
  • You can enroll outside of open enrollment if you experience a qualifying life event, but in most situations you have only 60 days from that event to enroll. Qualifying events include certain moves, births and adoptions, loss of employer-provided coverage, marriage, divorce and other special circumstances.
  • If you’re uninsured and your household income is no more than 150 percent of the federal poverty level ($20,385 for one person or $41,625 for a family of four), you may qualify for a new special enrollment period allowing you to enroll at any time. Coverage begins on the first of the month after you enroll.
  • Rhode Islanders who qualify for Medicaid can enroll year-round.

How do I sign up?

You apply for coverage and choose your plan at the same time. As soon as you submit an application with HealthSource RI, you'll learn what coverage you're eligible for.

If you enroll in a plan through HealthSource RI, your coverage will not begin until you’ve paid your first monthly premium. You can make a payment in a variety of ways, including at any CVS Pharmacy in the country.

There are numerous tools to help you apply and enroll: 

  • Online: Go to HealthSource RI’s website to apply and enroll. Get answers to questions through the site’s live web chat option – click on the blue "Chat with us!” icon – available in English and Spanish.

    The site also lists virtual and in-person enrollment events, when specialists are on hand to assist you. Live events are limited due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • By phone: Call HealthSource RI’s contact center at 855-840-4774 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

What is covered, and how much will it cost?

Coverage and cost depend on family size, the age of family members, household income and the type of plan you choose.

If you qualify for Medicaid, you’ll be able to get free or low-cost coverage and may not need to worry about premiums or copays, depending on your level of income.

All HealthSource RI plans are required by the Affordable Care Act to provide essential benefits, including:

  • Emergency services and hospitalization
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services (including counseling)
  • Chronic disease management
  • Pediatric services, including dental and vision
  • Prescription drugs
  • Preventative care, such as vaccines, screenings and yearly physicals

Insurance companies cannot deny coverage because of preexisting conditions. When you apply for health coverage through the state’s marketplace, you can identify your medical needs and choose a plan that makes financial sense for you and your family. Deductibles and out-of-pocket costs vary between plans.

Dental coverage must be purchased separately, although children under 18 may already have basic dental services included in their HealthSource RI plans.

What about federal assistance for premiums?

With the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, most HealthSource RI customers are eligible for extra savings.

According to Megan O’Reilly, AARP vice president of government affairs for health and family, subsidy recipients ages 50 to 64 have seen average annual savings of more than $950.

Is there any other financial assistance available?

Yes. If you qualify for a premium tax credit, you may also qualify for a cost-sharing reduction that would help you pay for out-of-pocket expenses such as deductibles and copays. You must enroll in a Silver-level plan to get this assistance.

What plans are available?

Most HealthSource RI plans are organized into four categories:

  • Bronze plans have the lowest monthly premiums, the highest deductibles and copays, and cover roughly 60 percent of care costs.
  • Silver plans have moderate monthly premiums, deductibles and copays. They cover about 70 percent of care costs and potentially more, if you come from a lower-income household and qualify for cost-sharing reductions – a subsidy only available through Silver plans.
  • Gold plans have higher monthly premiums, lower deductibles and copays, and cover roughly 80 percent of care costs.
  • Platinum plans have the highest monthly premiums, the lowest deductibles and copays, and cover roughly 90 percent of care costs. These are for people who have significant health care needs and are willing to pay the highest premiums.

Compare plans with HealthSource RI’s plan comparison tool.

What if I already have health insurance?

If you don’t have coverage through an employer and instead pay for coverage directly through an insurance provider, you may be eligible for financial assistance and greater savings if you switch to pay for your plan through HealthSource RI. But you may need to wait until open enrollment.

You may not qualify for tax credits if you opt out of your employer’s plan— unless those premiums exceed a certain portion of your household income. The premiums would need to be more than 9.12 percent of your household income for individual coverage to qualify for the tax credits. 

If you lose your COBRA coverage, you may be able to sign up for a HealthSource RI plan during a 60-day special enrollment window. Try to apply and select your plan through HealthSource RI before your COBRA coverage ends to make sure there’s no gap in coverage.

If you already have a marketplace plan and want to adjust your coverage, you'll need to wait until the next open enrollment period opens this fall, unless you experience a qualifying life event.

Will I need to get a new doctor?

That depends. Major insurance providers, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island and Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, offer HealthSource RI plans, but not all doctors accept them. Check the provider directories to see if your doctor accepts a coverage plan. The comparison tool to shop for coverage also lists the plans a doctor accepts.

Will my family members qualify for the same health plan that I do?

In most cases, family members can enroll in the same plan. But in some cases, there may be certain family members, often children, who qualify for no-cost coverage through Medicaid. A specialist with HealthSource RI can answer your questions. Call 855-840-4774 or use the live web chat option on the marketplace’s website.

This guide was updated on Feb. 2, 2023, with information about open enrollment.

Also of Interest:

    About AARP Rhode Island
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