Don’t let attempts at sabotage make you miss out. Get smart about getting covered.
Donald Trump and company don’t want you to know this, but you can sign up for 2018 health insurance from November 1 through December 15, 2017.
Try as they might to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare (which I wrote about HERE), the fact is that you can still get covered — and it might not cost as much as you think.
Just like every year, you have to do your homework and shop around. Because of Trump’s sabotage, some consumers may pay more than they would have. But in many states, the price increases will only impact Silver plans — and tax subsidies to help lower the cost of coverage for qualified consumers are still available if you sign up through Healthcare.gov. So take the time to shop around — but don’t take too long, because this year’s enrollment period is shorter than any to come before it.
Although open enrollment on Healthcare.gov only runs from November 1 through December 15 this year, some states that run their own websites have extended their enrollment periods. Check HERE to find out if your state is one of them.
In another attempt at sabotage, Healthcare.gov will undergo “planned maintenance” for a few hours each Sunday — a popular shopping time for working people — during open enrollment. So plan ahead to avoid trying to sign up during downtimes.
You can avoid heavy traffic on Healthcare.gov by going directly to your insurance company website to do your homework. You can also buy insurance directly from a health insurer, unless you qualify for tax subsidies or Medicaid expansion in your state, both of which you can quickly verify at Healthcare.gov.
If you don’t qualify for help paying for insurance, buying directly from a health insurer may be especially beneficial if you’re already a customer. I called my insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, to ask about 2018 plans and they assigned me an insurance specialist who will be my sole contact throughout the process. She’s responded to emails within the hour and scheduled a phone call in early November to review the plans she sent me and help me sign up. Especially with the budget for no-cost navigators slashed by the Trump administration, this is one great way to get expert help.
Remember: The only way to qualify for tax subsidies is to sign up through Healthcare.gov. And be cautious about plans that are promoted as being “off-exchange” — meaning you can only buy them direct from insurers. One such plan I looked at seemed like a bargain until I realized it does not cover any out-of-network costs at any price. Again, it pays to do your homework.
A few insurance-buying basics.
Here are some tips to help you make an educated buying decision during 2018 open enrollment.
If you’re new to buying insurance — and even if you’re not — check out this five-minute video created by Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). It 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.
When you’re shopping for insurance, remember that the monthly premium is only one aspect of choosing an insurance plan. You should weigh that against a plan’s deductible, out-of-pocket costs, prescription costs and the out-of-pocket maximum you’ll have to pay each year.
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 and Gold 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 out-of-pocket costs.
However, many insurers raised prices on Silver plans to shield themselves from Trump’s attempts to tank the market, so some Silver plans may have higher premiums than Gold plans for 2018. In my case, however, it looks like a Silver plan will offer the same benefits at about the same premium and deductible as my current Gold plan. Every state will differ, too, so compare, compare, compare.
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. Either way, it’s a good idea to check out these tips for keeping or changing your existing plans.
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.
Open enrollment is almost here, so make sure you’re ready. Then make sure all your friends know how to sign up for coverage. Let’s prove the saboteurs wrong and make this open enrollment period one of the best yet.
[Image courtesy of Out2Enroll — another great resource for information on buying and using insurance, tailored to the LGBTQ community.]