We all know that having health insurance is required by law. If we don’t have it, we are fined hefty fines come tax season. For those of us looking to buy a health plan that fits our lifestyle and budget, the health insurance marketplace can be a confusing place. When people hear that open enrollment begins November 1, they are often not sure what they must do.
Open Enrollment for 2018 runs from November 1, 2017 to December 15, 2017.
Outside the Open Enrollment Period, you generally can enroll in a health insurance plan only if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. You’re eligible if you have certain life events, like getting married, having a baby, or losing other health coverage.
- Job-based plans may have different Open Enrollment Periods. Check with your employer.
- You can apply and enroll in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) any time of year.
What’s So Confusing?
Nearly half of the people surveyed (49%) say that open enrollment is stressful and they are never sure if they are making the right decision in choosing their health plan for the following year. Nearly a quarter of people (20%) end up regretting their choices afterward.
The truth is that it’s often our own fault for being confused. Statistics show that far less than half of people (34%) go over the written materials regarding their healthcare plans and benefits.
Often, they find the material they need to understand to make good choices difficult to read and grasp.
Some low-income Americans are eligible for Medicaid. Senior citizens and the disabled are eligible for Medicare. People who do not qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, and who do not have health insurance through their employer, must purchase their own private insurance according to the guidelines of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. (Obamacare). Otherwise, they can speak with an Insurance Specialist who can shop and compare health insurance rates for them.
People with Medicare are alerted to any changes in their plan around this time and some recipients opt to buy supplemental insurance when they feel Medicare does not meet all their needs.
Each state has its own insurance marketplace, so click here to find and preview different plans and prices for 2017 according to your zip code.
The following dates are very important to note:
- November 1, 2016: The first day of open enrollment. Enroll, re-enroll or change your health plan.
- December 15, 2016: Last day to enroll, re-enroll or change your health plan for the coverage to begin January 1, 2017.
- January 1, 2017: New coverage starts for those who met the December 15th
- January 13, 2017: The last day to enroll, re-enroll or change your health plan if you are qualified for a Special Enrollment Period.
What You Should Pay Attention to When Choosing a Plan
- Look at the big picture. Don’t just look at premium costs. There will be co-payments and they vary depending on your plan. Sometimes you have to pay out of pocket until you meet the deductible. Look into what co-payments are for prescription drugs, doctors’ visits and lab charges.
- Think Ahead. Do you plan to have a major procedure this upcoming year? Find out what the deductibles are. Are you paying a small co-pay or are you paying out of pocket when you visit the doctor? Think about how often you will see a doctor before you decide where the savings are.
- Preventative Care Perks. Look into your plan’s preventive care. Services like immunizations and depression screenings are often free of charge even if you haven’t met your deductible.
- Choosing Your Doctors. See if the doctors you do not want to replace are in your plan’s network. If not, consider choosing a plan that allows you to choose out-of-network doctors while covering most of the charge.
- Medical Spending Accounts. Do you have options for one of these accounts at your job? If not there are tax-free, government-subsidized options like the Flexible Spending Account(FSA). These types of accounts can help pay for medical, dental and vision expenses not covered by your insurance.
For more information on health coverage or if you would like to compare healthcare plans, click here.
The information in this article was obtained from various sources. This content is offered for educational purposes only and does not represent contractual agreements, nor is it intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. The definitions, terms, and coverage in a given policy may be different than those suggested here and such policy will be governed by the language contained therein. No warranty or appropriateness for a specific purpose is expressed or implied.