You’d do your homework before buying a car or even a coffee maker, right? Shopping for insurance isn’t much different. Here are some helpful hints.
The time has come: Open enrollment through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance Marketplace runs from November 15th to February 15th, 2015.
If you haven’t bought insurance before, or it’s been a while, it might seem a little overwhelming. In fact, a recent survey conducted by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that four in 10 uninsured Americans don’t understand complex coverage concepts.
That’s okay. You don’t have to be an insurance expert to buy insurance. There are plenty of resources to help you make a good choice.
For starters, in response to the survey findings, KFF created a five-minute video that covers the most important insurance terms you need to know when buying and using insurance.
The video does a great job of explaining many of the variables to consider when shopping for insurance. But you may still have questions, so KFF created a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about health reform. Peruse it before you start shopping and keep it handy if questions come up during the process.
Tips for comparison shopping.
It’s especially important to remember that the monthly premium is only one aspect of choosing an insurance plan. You should weigh that against a plan’s out-of-pocket costs, deductibles, prescription costs and the out-of-pocket maximum you’ll have to pay each year.
There’s a bigger selection of plans available on the insurance Marketplace this year, so you’ll want to do some number-crunching. In general, Bronze plans have a lower monthly premium but higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. This may be a better choice if you’re young or don’t have any health issues. Silver, Gold and Platinum plans have incrementally higher premiums and lower out-of-pocket costs, which may make them more attractive if you have a chronic condition like asthma, diabetes or arthritis. You’ll pay more every month, but will have lower additional costs.
Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few plans, make sure your favorite doctors and nearby healthcare facilities like hospitals are covered. Checking on this before you enroll will save you a lot of hassles later.
When you visit Healthcare.gov, in addition to comparing insurance plans you can check to see if you’re eligible for financial assistance to help pay for your coverage. It’s based on your income and you only have to answer a couple of questions to find out. It could make your insurance a lot more affordable.
If you bought insurance through the insurance Marketplace last year, your insurance company should let you know if you need to take any steps to renew your coverage. You may still want to see if there’s an even better plan for your needs now that there are more options. You just need to make a decision by December 15 to have your coverage start or renew on January 1, 2015.
Representatives are standing by.
This may sound like a lot to figure out on your own, but don’t sweat it. In addition to enrolling online through Healthcare.gov, you can call 1-800-318-2596 and a trained representative will walk you through the process of enrolling by phone.
What’s more, there are trained in-person enrollment assisters across the country who will sit down with you, answer your questions, and help you choose and enroll in the plan that’s right for you.
According to Anne Filipic, national president of Get Covered America, a national campaign of Enroll America that’s focused on educating consumers about the benefits of health insurance coverage, lessons learned during last year’s open enrollment are driving efforts this time around.
We learned the critical importance of in-person assistance, and we also learned that this is a real process for consumers, who may want to talk to someone and then they want to go home and sit down at their kitchen table and look at their budget and talk to their friends and neighbors. Over the summer, we recruited even more people to serve as Certified Application Counselors. We have a process in place for ongoing communication and support that goes even deeper into communities all over the country.
Still have questions? There’s lots more information at Healthcare.gov.
If you got covered last year — or you buy insurance during this year’s open enrollment period — I’d love to hear your story. Contact me HERE if you’re interested in being profiled in an upcoming post.
[Image via Get Covered America on Facebook.]