Confused about health insurance?

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.

Enrollment Process

  • 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.
Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan's goal as a Family Finance program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is to help people use their money according to THEIR priorities. She provides information and tools, and then encourages folks to focus on what they control: their own decisions about what to do with the money they have.

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Obligation or Opportunity?

health costsThe 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/

Barb

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan

Barb Wollan's goal as a Family Finance program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is to help people use their money according to THEIR priorities. She provides information and tools, and then encourages folks to focus on what they control: their own decisions about what to do with the money they have.

More Posts

    

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