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If you’re self-employed (run an income-generating business) with no employees, then you aren’t classified as an employer and you’re not obligated to comply with the requirements for employers set by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Even if you hire independent contractors to do some work, they are not considered employees, which means you have health coverage options available as an individual.

A licensed insurance agent can help guide you through your health insurance choices, both inside and outside of the Marketplace, and ensure your selection fits both your budget and your needs. An agent will help you compare health insurance plans based on price, benefits, out-of-pocket costs, deductibles and other aspects of a plan that may be important to you.

If you currently have individual insurance (which you pay for yourself, and don’t get through an employer) you may be able to change to a new plan that provides the added benefits required by the ACA. This change would have to be made within the annual enrollment period, which ends March 31, 2014.

The first step to changing plans would be to check with your insurance agent about canceling your current policy. Depending on your situation, you may have to wait until the end of the policy year before you are eligible to cancel, or you may be able to cancel your plan the first of the following month. After March 31, you will need a special enrollment period (SEP) in order to enroll in new coverage. An agent will help you determine your options and if you qualify for a SEP based on the reason for canceling your current coverage.  A SEP is not available, however, if you voluntarily end your current plan or are terminated from it for failing to make payments.

If you qualify, purchasing an individual health insurance plan through the Marketplace may provide access to lower premium costs and lower out-of-pocket costs. Lower out-of-pocket costs could mean lower deductibles, co-payments, and coinsurance. If you are not eligible for these cost reductions, you do not need to purchase insurance through the Marketplace.

It is always recommended that you visit with your agent to determine your eligibility for the cost reductions available through the Marketplace, to compare plan benefits, and ultimately to choose and enroll in a plan. Best of all, your agent will be available to answer your questions once you start utilizing the benefits offered by the plan you purchased!