Yes, rates are going up — but so are tax credits to help many Americans pay for coverage. Do your own homework.
Open enrollment through HealthCare.gov is here and you can buy 2017 health insurance now through January 31, 2017.
I’ve been a proponent of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, since day one, and that opinion hasn’t changed.
Of course, other things haven’t changed, either, so you’ll be hearing plenty of critics saying coverage isn’t affordable, or Obamacare is a failure, or a host of other unfounded and even outlandish claims.
But if you listen to the people who have been “rooting for failure” all along, as President Obama said last week on a conference call to 25,000 advocates and assisters on the ground helping people enroll, you’d never even take a look at the coverage that’s available, and that would be a shame.
Although insurance rates are increasing — which is the decision of insurers, not the government — so are the tax credits available to help people pay for health insurance. Protection against rate increases is built into the design of the ACA. Because of that, 7 out of 10 consumers can find a plan for less than $100 a month. Premiums may be going up, but that doesn’t mean costs are increasing.
But don’t just take my word for it. This, from an article in the New York Times:
Premiums for benchmark plans on HealthCare.gov, the federal marketplace, are increasing by an average of 25 percent, the government said. But 85 percent of those insured through the marketplace are eligible for tax credits that can significantly lower those premiums.
In many parts of the country, tax credits can reduce premium increases to “essentially zero,” Cynthia Cox, associate director of Kaiser Family Foundation’s program for the study of health reform and private insurance, said this week in a call with reporters.
The key is that you have to shop around. Simply keeping your current plan, if you have one, will undoubtedly result in a premium increase. But by comparison shopping you may find a better deal. In fact, according to an email sent by HealthCare.gov to people like me who buy our insurance there, people who switch plans within the same coverage level for 2017 could pay an estimated $28 per month less on average compared to their 2016 premium.
You also have to buy through HealthCare.gov to qualify for tax credits. An estimated 2.5 million Americans didn’t receive help paying for coverage because they bought coverage elsewhere, say federal regulators, and half of uninsured consumers didn’t realize they can receive financial assistance at all. Don’t leave money on the table.
Yes, going through all the plan options is a little bit tedious, but that has always been the case when buying insurance, and HealthCare.gov keeps getting easier to use. I did some window-shopping over the weekend and am looking at three different plans, weighing the difference in monthly premiums, deductibles, provider networks and out-of-pocket costs to make the best choice for my healthcare needs and budget. I’ll update readers of Eclectablog as I continue shopping.
But buying insurance is like any other significant purchase: You have to be an educated consumer. It takes some time and effort, but what could be more important than making sure you have the coverage you need to stay healthy and protect you from huge expenses if you’re ever sick or injured and don’t have insurance? Not to mention that the penalty for not having insurance in 2017, if you can afford coverage, is $700. Many folks, especially young people, can get covered for an annual cost that’s less than that.
Kaiser Family Foundation has put together an excellent guide to avoiding insurance-buying pitfalls that I highly recommend reading and referring to while you shop.
If you want help choosing the right coverage, the folks at HealthCare.gov can guide you. You can also get free, in-person assistance through Get Covered America.
Whatever you do, see for yourself exactly what health insurance will cost you in 2017. Plenty of people want to tell you it’s unaffordable, but chances are you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And there is no better way to prove the Obamacare skeptics wrong than by buying affordable insurance for 2017 and encouraging others to do the same.
Have a story to share about how the Affordable Care Act has helped you or your experience shopping for 2017 coverage? We want to hear about it for possible inclusion in an upcoming post.
[Photo credit: Amy Lynn Smith, from a BarackObama.com bumper sticker.]