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Beginning in 2014, those with pre-existing health conditions can’t be denied health insurance or be charged more for coverage based on that fact alone. That’s great news for many Americans! It means that being sick can’t stop people from getting the insurance coverage they need.

A pre-existing health condition can be as commonplace as asthma or high blood pressure, but it can also be as serious as heart disease.

In this new insurance environment, insurers can only vary premiums based on age, the number of family members covered, and tobacco usage. No one can be charged more based on his or her medical history.

Coverage for a pre-existing condition begins with the effective date of the policy eliminating any waiting period. This is true even if the insured has been turned down or charged more for coverage before due to a pre-existing condition. In addition, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) can’t refuse coverage, or charge more for it, due to a health condition.

Going forward there will only be one exception to the coverage for pre-existing conditions: grandfathered individual health insurance plans. These plans still do not have to cover pre-existing conditions, as they are exempt from the requirements of Obamacare. If you are enrolled in a grandfathered plan you can simply switch to a plan during open enrollment that complies with Obamacare requirements to remove any pre-existing condition restrictions.  Contact your agent if you don’t know the grandfathered status of your current plan.

Open enrollment ends on March 31, 2014. After that date, you can’t enroll in coverage for 2014 unless you have a qualifying life event, such as you move to a new state, get married, divorce, have a baby, or certain changes in income.  Open enrollment for 2015 coverage runs from November 15, 2014 – January 15, 2015.