A little advance planning will make insurance enrollment or renewal a breeze.
November is going to be a big month! After Election Day on November 4th, the next date to remember is November 15th — the day open enrollment through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace begins.
If you’ve already bought health insurance through the ACA marketplace (aka Obamacare), you know the drill, although depending on when you enrolled it may be even easier than it was last year. But you’ll still want to review and confirm your coverage.
And if you haven’t signed up for health insurance yet, why the heck not? There will be more coverage options and insurers to choose from — which means you may find even better deals than you could last year. Chances are, you can get covered for less than you think.
Between now and the end of open enrollment on Feb. 15, 2015, I’ll be sharing lots of helpful hints on navigating the Marketplace, buying insurance and making the most of your benefits. But here are a few tips to help you get started.
If you already have insurance through the Marketplace.
You’ll probably get a notice that you need to return to Healthcare.gov to renew your coverage for 2015. This isn’t a big deal — and it’s actually a chance to make sure your coverage fits your needs and your budget.
If you signed up through Healthcare.gov or a state-based online Marketplace, the system should fill in your information automatically if you use your existing account. But check everything anyway, especially if anything has changed like your income, marital status or address. You may qualify for a bigger tax credit or, if your income is up (in which case, good for you!), a smaller one. Better to know now.
It’s also a chance to compare plans, coverage and prices. Insurers sometimes change which doctors and hospitals are in-network, so make sure all your doctors and favorite facilities are still covered under your plan. Using in-network providers always costs less. There are more insurers and plans coming to the Marketplace in 2015, so you might find a better option. You’ll also want to see if the cost of your current plan has changed. Some insurance companies are raising prices and others are lowering them. It’s their call (so don’t blame Obamacare, which requires insurers to justify any annual increases over 10%).
As long as you renew your coverage by December 15th you’ll be good to go on January 1, 2015. No matter when you bought it, all coverage purchased for 2014 via the Marketplace ends December 31. Which means you don’t have to rush to renew on November 15, although experts aren’t expecting the same heavy traffic on Healthcare.gov as there was at the beginning of enrollment in 2013. Not to mention that the site is working much more smoothly as of late last year.
When you do get online, the process will go even faster if you have all the information you need. Here’s a handy checklist from Healthcare.gov [PDF].
If you don’t have health insurance yet.
Most of the above applies, except that you’ll need to create a new online account.
In addition to the items on the checklist above, you’ll also want to think through a few things before you start shopping, so you know what you’re looking for.
Here are a few basics:
- Do you care about a choice of doctors? If so, look for plans that have your doctors in-network.
- Is the closest hospital to you part of your plan’s network?
- Would you rather pay a higher monthly premium and lower out-of-pocket costs? Or a lower monthly premium and higher costs only if you get sick? If you have a pre-existing condition, Gold and Silver plans with a higher monthly premium may be a better deal in the long run. If you are in generally good health, look at Bronze and Silver plans.
- Be sure to compare all the costs: premiums, co-pays, coinsurance, deductible and out-of-pocket maximums. There’s much more to insurance coverage than just the monthly premium. (More on this in a future post.)
- If you need help making a decision, you can get personal help by phone or in person. All that information is available through Healthcare.gov.
If you recently had a major life change or qualify for Medicaid.
You don’t have to wait to enroll in coverage. Visit Healthcare.gov now to see if you qualify.
If you still want more information.
Visit Healthcare.gov or Enroll America to learn more online or get connected with local in-person resources. And watch this space for future posts.
Do you have a success story to tell about getting covered? I’d love to feature it in an upcoming post. Contact me HERE. Thanks!
Image via Healthcare.gov on Facebook.