This time of year many Americans make health insurance decisions. If your health insurance comes through your employer, you may be making plan choices in the next month or so, and if you purchase insurance individually, open enrollment is November 1 through December 15. Are you equipped to make informed choices about your health insurance?
ISU Extension and Outreach offers two free on-line workshops on health insurance topics:
- Smart Choice Basics focuses on the key things to know before you sign up for a specific health plan. It’s useful to people who get their insurance through their employer as well as to people who need to purchase insurance on their own. It also addresses questions about how to get help paying for health insurance via the HealthCare.gov Marketplace. It is being offered November 19 and December 1 (6 p.m. each day).
- Smart Use: Smart Actions for Using your Health Insurance Wisely. This workshop focuses on seven key actions for consumers to take, including keeping track of the health care they receive, reviewing their bills carefully and disputing errors, understanding deductibles and co-pays, and more. It is being offered November 2 and December 8 (6 p.m. each day).
Understanding key health insurance principles can save you money year-round. It also gives you the confidence to ask useful questions about health costs and bills, and to make informed choices about when and where you receive the health care you need.
Pre-registration for the health insurance workshops is required.
Questions? Contact Barb Wollan or Brenda Schmitt. The flier is attached below if you’d like to share it with others.
These two workshops were developed by a team of experts from across the nation led by University of Maryland Extension. They are conducted locally by trained Iowa State University Extension and Outreach specialists.
Today, November 1, is the beginning of open enrollment for those who buy health insurance on the individual market. Over the last several months there has been a lot of confusing news about health insurance, so we want to help clear up some of the confusion.
- www.healthcare.gov is still the place where Iowans can find health insurance plans where eligible consumers can use premium tax credits to help them pay their health insurance premiums. To enroll over the phone, the phone number is still 800-318-2596.
- This year, the open enrollment period has been shortened: it goes from November 1 – December 15, 2017. During that time anyone can purchase a health insurance policy for 2018.
- The enrollment site will be closed for maintenance for 12 hours (midnight till noon) every Sunday during the enrollment period, with the exception of the last Sunday, December 10.
- To find local help with enrolling, do a zip code search at Get Covered America.
Plans and Costs
- There has been a lot of news about premiums rising, and it is true. However, if you are eligible for a premium tax credit to help pay your premium, the higher premiums are not a major concern.
Why? With the premium tax credit, you only pay a certain percentage of your income; the tax credit pays the rest of the premium. That means your premium costs for 2018 will be similar to 2017 if your income is similar.
- Find out if you are eligible for a premium tax credit at https://www.healthcare.gov/lower-costs/save-on-monthly-premiums/. Income guidelines vary by family size: for a single individual, the maximum 2018 income is $48,240; for a family of 4, it is $98,400.
- For most of Iowa, there is only one insurance company offering plans through healthcare.gov. Be sure to find out if your medical providers are participating in the plan before signing up. You will be able to find that information during the enrollment process before you enroll. The network appears to be quite broad, but it is still important to know if the company’s provider network will meet your needs; no one wants to be caught by surprise after they have enrolled.
- If you are not eligible for a premium tax credit, you can still use healthcare.gov to purchase health insurance, but you will need to pay the full premium. Before making a decision, it would be wise to compare other options, perhaps through one or more local insurance agents. Health insurance purchased elsewhere may provide reduced coverage, and may be a challenge for people with pre-existing conditions, but it is always wise to check multiple options before making a decision.
- If you are under 30, you may be eligible to purchase a lower-cost, very-high-deductible catastrophic plan. An earlier blog post describes these plans.
The idea of not having health insurance scares me. I remember a time when I ended one job on a Friday (October 20), and my new job started on Monday (October 23). I was worried – asked questions: “what if something happened over that weekend?” I don’t remember which insurance plan covered those two days, but I do remember that I received assurance that I was covered.
Beginning in 2014, everyone is required to be insured (with a just few exemptions from the penalty). While that is an obligation, it is also an opportunity!
As I see it, health insurance is a safety net – one that has always been really important to me. Even healthy young people can find themselves needing serious (and expensive) medical care. Accidents happen, and so do illnesses that can cause hospitalization and tremendous costs. Even a healthy pregnancy involves significant medical costs. Currently the average cost for a 3-day hospital stay is $30,000; the cost of a broken leg: $75,000. Most people, regardless of age, are not prepared to take on the cost of a serious medical problem – whether it’s $20,000 or $200,000 or $2 million.
The main reason young adults have been without health insurance has been cost. Beginning in 2014, cost will be less of a problem, since assistance with paying health insurance premiums will be available to people with incomes up to about $45,000 (single adult) or more (based on family size). A single adult with income under $20,000 will pay little or nothing for health insurance – as income rises, people pay more on a sliding scale.
To me, getting health insurance is a no-brainer. No matter what my situation, I will always want health insurance if I can possibly get it. I hope that young adults are not turned off by the fact that it’s now an obligation – I hope they instead focus on the opportunity to protect themselves from disastrous health costs.
For more information on health insurance changes, here are some reputable resources: www.healthcare.gov; http://www.extension.org/pages/68659/health-insurance-faqs; http://kff.org/health-reform/