If you currently have or need to sign up for health insurance through the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace, it’s time to get up to speed and act now. Marketplace open enrollment begins on November 1 and ends on December 15. Open enrollment is the time each year when you can sign up for health insurance on HealthCare.gov if you don’t already have coverage through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, TriCare or another sort of health coverage.
Over the past three years, we’ve compiled a list of common questions we hear from people, and as people start the enrollment process, we thought we’d share some answers to common questions.
- Do I need insurance?
Protecting your health should be your number one priority, and there’s no better way to do that than to have health insurance. Insurance will cover the cost of expenses related to illness or accidents, and in some cases, can prevent financial hardships due to unexpected health expenses.
- Can I change my plan during the year?
Changes to your insurance plan need to happen during the open marketplace enrollment period (November 1–December 15, 2017). However, you are allowed to make changes during the year if you have a life event, such as the birth of a child, marriage or even a new job.
- What plans are available on the exchange this year?
This is probably the most common question we’re hearing this year. Several plans from last year are no longer available, and this could impact the costs people might have if they want to keep their same doctor or health system. It’s important to look at what plan might be the best for you and your family.
- What is In Network?
In Network refers to a group of doctors and specialists who have a contract with your insurance company. This keeps out-of-pocket costs down. Typically, when you go to a doctor out of your network, you will pay higher cost, which makes understanding which doctors are in your network all the more important, and finding a plan that fits it.
- What happens if my plan from last year is no longer available?
Plans and prices change every year so it’s important to shop the marketplace and compare your options. This will also ensure that you do not get automatically reassigned to a plan that may be out of your network if your plan from last year is no longer available.
- When do I need to enroll, and what happens if I miss the deadline?
The first day to sign up for coverage is November 1, 2017. One of the biggest changes from last year is that the marketplace enrollment period is half as long as in previous years, and there is only one deadline. Therefore, you must take action and enroll by December 15 or you will risk not having coverage in 2018.
A few other items people need to be aware of. First, financial assistance is still available, depending on your income levels. An enrollment assistor can help you determine what you may or may not qualify for.
Second, penalties also can still apply if you choose to not purchase insurance.
And finally, as noted above, if you do nothing, you could be subject to auto-enrolling into a plan that might not include your medical team and leave you in a challenging predicament in 2018.
The most important piece of advice for anyone with questions is to understand there are lots of free resources out there to help people navigate the federal marketplace. Healthcare.gov offers great information, as do many community partners and health systems.
Don’t delay in pushing off this important decision until mid-December. Take the time to find the best options for you and your family, and you can then rest with the peace of mind that comes knowing your health and well-being is covered with insurance
Cheryl Miller oversees the team of enrollment assistors at Aurora Health Care. To contact Aurora Health Care’s Patient Enrollment Help Line, call 1-877-732-6334 or visit aurora.org/getcovered.