Your Move: Obamacare open enrollment starts today
“‘Consumers are unclear whether the marketplaces still exist, whether they still have an obligation to get coverage, whether the mandate exists, whether they can get financial assistance,’ said Kelley Turek, a policy analyst at America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group. ‘Our message is: Come back. The marketplaces are still here.’”
—“As Open Enrollment for Obamacare Begins, Confusion Reigns,” The New York Times, 10/31/17
There’s good news about health insurance. But before I get to it, the bad news: The Trump administration, having failed to repeal a landmark health law responsible for providing health insurance to nearly 20 million Americans, is actively undermining it. Funding for the federal marketplace and Healthcare.gov has been slashed—both for advertising to get the word out about open enrollment, and for groups that employ “navigators,” the local professionals who help people enroll. The administration even halved the period during which health insurance shoppers can lock in a plan, reducing open enrollment from 90 days to 45 days.
Now, the good news: Despite all these obstacles, the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment season began today. So, if you don’t already have coverage through a job, a family member, or a government program like Medicare or Medicaid, there’s nothing stopping you from taking a crucial step for your financial security. Health coverage is necessary for your physical and fiscal well-being, protecting you and your family from the worst-case scenario. Get this: Mending a broken leg can cost up to $7,500; a three-day hospital stays runs about $30,000. So sign up any time between now and December 15 and get covered.
Here’s how to do it:
- Visit Healthcare.gov. Select your state, and you’ll be sent either to the federal exchange, which offers health insurance plans for people in states that don’t have their own marketplace, or to your state-run exchange. (Several states, including California and New York, have their own.)
- Answer basic questions. You’ll need to have some information handy for your application, including Social Security numbers for you and your family, a pay stub or W-2 form, and policy numbers for any current health insurance plans.
- Learn whether you qualify for a subsidy (lowering bills when you get care) or a credit (reducing the premium you pay to your insurer each month). Eligibility for these Affordable Care Act benefits, which can be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year, is largely based on your income.
- Pick a plan. Whether or not you qualify for a subsidy or a credit, you’ll get a list of policies available to you. Now it’s time to compare them. A few tips:
- Check each policy’s Summary of Benefits and Coverage—a basic, standard explanatory document—to make sure it covers what you need.
- Make sure the doctors you use are in the plan’s provider network. It’s as simple as calling their offices.
- Estimate each plan’s cost to you, including monthly premium and out-of-pocket expenses such as your deductible and co-payments.