Why You Shouldn’t Buy Insurance on the Exchanges—Yet
Life + Money

Why You Shouldn’t Buy Insurance on the Exchanges—Yet

REUTERS/The Fiscal Times

Whether or not there’s a government shutdown tonight, the Obamacare exchanges will open for business tomorrow, allowing a projected 7 million uninsured Americans to buy health coverage that will take effect January 1st.

Tomorrow is certainly a big milestone in terms of the implementation of Obamacare, but it’s unlikely uninsured Americans will run en masse to their computers to sign up for insurance that doesn’t kick in for another three months.


As the head of Rhode Island’s exchange told The Washington Post, “The idea that people are going to do layaway purchasing three months out goes against the American way.”

Putting off the purchase might not be a bad thing. Here are three reasons it’s probably a good idea to wait a month or two before buying a policy.

1. The experience will be better if you wait. 
Even the president himself has said the initial rollout will be full of “glitches” and “hiccups.” Some states have announced that the sites will have limited functionality, at first, and experts predict some technical issues for early enrollees. Why be a guinea pig? Rather than subject yourself to what will likely be a frustrating experience, hold off until the exchanges have ironed out some of the wrinkles.


Application submission date Guaranteed effective date of coverage
October 1 through December 15, 2013 January 1, 2014
December 16 through January 15, 2014 February 1, 2014
January 16 through February 15, 2014 March 1, 2014
February 16 through March 15, 2014 April 1, 2014
March 15 through March 31, 2014 May 1, 2014

2. You won’t save anything by purchasing early.
As long as you purchase insurance by December 15, your coverage will kick in on January 1, 2014. The plans available today are the same ones that will be available in December, so there’s no financial incentive secure coverage as early as possible. Open enrollment is actually available through the end of March, but coverage dates will vary depending on when you buy (see chart). 

3. Even the exchanges don’t want your business yet.
Directors of the state exchanges are referring to Oct. 1 as a “soft launch,” according to The New York Times, and they admit their insurance marketplaces may not be ready for a customer blitz on day one. For many exchange workers, a slow buildup of enrollees is far preferable to a sudden onslaught, according to Politico.