Open Enrollment for Health Insurance

If you are one of the individuals that purchase health insurance through the marketplace, you have some important deadlines approaching. If you want your coverage to begin on January 1, 2022 and you are enrolled in a plan through Healthcare.gov then you needed to enroll by December 15th.

If you live in Maryland, you have until December 31, 2021. Each year, you need to review, update, or enroll in marketplace plans. If you don’t meet these deadlines, you have until January 15, 2022 with the health insurance plan beginning February 1, 2022.

In case you are thinking, “Why do I need health insurance?” let me share a couple of reasons. To begin, there is peace of mind. Having health insurance provides us with the resources we need to address health issues when they arise.

It also protects your financial resources from unexpected medical bills. Over 20% of Americans struggle to pay medical bills and 3 in 5 bankruptcies are due to medical bills. Health insurance provides you with wellness services and programs to help you stay healthy.  When you have and use your health insurance, you have better health outcomes. When you are sick and use your health insurance you get well faster and miss less work or school.

Now you’re thinking, what is my next step? That’s simple, visit Healthcare.gov. If you live in Maryland, you can go directly to Maryland Health Connection. There are navigators and assistors ready to help. If you are not sure how to select a policy, use our workbook. It will walk you through step by step process of comparing health insurance policies. 

Are You Covered? Open Enrollment is Here

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Medical bills and doctor visits can be expensive, but getting covered by health insurance can protect you and your family from the high unexpected costs of treating illnesses, accidents and other unforeseen health problems.

The Health Insurance Marketplace Open Enrollment period to receive coverage or make changes to your existing coverage, is getting close. This year it runs from November 1, 2019, to December 15, 2019.  Concurrently, Medicare Open Enrollment began October 15, 2019, and continues till December 7, 2019. Many employer health plans host an open enrollment period during the same period. 

So what does this mean? That it’s time to think about health insurance and reassess your family’s needs.  

Where can you find assistance?

Each state operates a little differently, therefore it is suggested that you connect with a Navigator or Assistor in that state.  A Navigator or Assistor is someone that specializes in the health field who can help you enroll in a health insurance plan or answer any questions you may have.  Medicare also provides resources if you have questions during the process.  If you have an employer-based plan, contact your Human Resources office for assistance.  

How much will it cost?

The cost of health insurance depends on your income.  Individuals that meet income guidelines can receive tax credits toward health insurance plans on the Marketplace.  A tax credit is money that you receive from the government to assist with paying your health insurance premiums. Premiums are the monthly payments you make to the health insurance company.  

My colleagues at the University of Maryland Extension have several great resources to assist in making health insurance decisions.  Click on any of the following topics for more information.

Choosing Health Insurance Workbook

How to Choose a Doctor

Making a Good Guess on Health Costs

Types of Health Insurance

For a complete list, click here.

Remember that we all need health insurance.  Use it to stay healthy. Routine checkups are an important element in staying healthy and preventing more serious health issues.  In the long run, health insurance will save you money.

 

Open Enrollment: Will Your Adult Child Be Moving?

How well does your health insurance plan travel? We recently had to investigate this question for ourselves when our oldest child (who gave me permission to include her story in this post) decided to go to graduate school more than 900 miles away. Since she was invited to teach, the university covered her tuition and provided a stipend for living expenses, but health insurance was her own responsibility.

If your adult child is currently considering a big move (of any sort) within the next year, you and your child may benefit from researching health plans now, during open enrollment. Many health insurance plans allow changes or updates due to a move, but some may not. So if you and your child do the research now, you can make the smartest choice for his or her health and, possibly, your financial needs.

Here are some of the options we looked into:

Stay on the family plan: Although your adult child can maintain coverage under your employer-sponsored or privately purchased insurance plan until the age of 26, most plans make a contract with specific caregivers for services. These in-network providers are usually only found in or near your home area. Your insurance plan might pay less—or not at all—for care received from an out-of-network provider. However, many plans have provisions for those who move. To learn more about networks and costs, check on your provider’s website, or in your plan’s Evidence of Coverage booklet. You can also call their customer service number found on your insurance card.

Purchase a student health plan: If your child is going to attend college or graduate school, check to see if the university provides access to a health insurance plan.  Many schools require and offer access to health insurance plans designed to meet the needs of students. Terms and requirements vary, as do family constraints. You can learn more from the college to determine if staying on the family plan or getting a student plan will be more advantageous.

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One consideration that may factor into your research is whether the student plan applies during travel, such as trips home during breaks.

Obtain individual coverage through the health insurance marketplace: A marketplace navigator can help you find an insurance plan in the new state. Financial help might be available from the government. Medicaid may also be an option for those with income limitations.

Medical care can be costly! Making the right health insurance choices can protect both your family’s health and finances. When shopping for the best insurance plan, or deciding to stay on a parent’s plan, it is important to check the services provided and compare costs. The plan with the lowest deductibles might not be the smartest choice if there are large out-of-pocket costs for care. University of Maryland Extension’s Insuring Your Health webpage offers many tested resources that can help guide this process.

 

Editor’s Note: You can learn more about each of the underlined terms by checking out our SmartChoice and SmartUse Health Insurance glossary

Tis The Season… For Health Insurance

Now that Halloween is over, you may have started preparing for the upcoming holidays—but you should also be thinking about health insurance.  November 1 to December 15 is open enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace, which is where you can get health insurance if you can’t otherwise get it through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Do you really need health insurance?
When money is tight, it’s easy to overlook the importance of health insurance. But without insurance, you are less likely to get medical care when needed. What you think is a minor ailment could end up lasting longer than necessary, or even result in a major medical condition going undiagnosed. All of which can lead to lost time from work, less money in your pocket, and possibly even a shorter life span. Having and using health insurance helps you stay healthy by preventing illness, and identifying and managing chronic conditions. Health insurance also reduces your health care expenses.

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Health insurance not only pays for doctors visits, but also medical equipment, like blood glucose meters. Every plan differs in coverage, so when choosing a plan, you want to make sure to select one that meets your needs.

You may still be worrying about the cost, but don’t let that stop you from getting a plan. When you apply in Maryland, you may qualify for financial assistance! Maryland Health Connection reports that last year, 90% of people who enrolled in insurance received financial assistance. So why not give it a try? The risk of not having insurance is far worse.

Here’s how you can get insurance now!
Between now and December 15 make sure that you get health insurance.  If you live in Maryland, visit the Maryland Health Connection, click on the “How to Enroll” tab, and sign up for a plan.

If you need help, assistance is always available by clicking the “Find Help” tab.  Local navigators are also available to meet with you in-person, or you can call 1-855-642-8572.

If you live outside of Maryland visit www.healthcare.gov. You can also find local assistance by clicking the “Find Local Help” button.

Use our guides to help make your decision.
We have also developed some consumer resources to help you through this process. I highly recommend that you look at the following resources:

  • Marketplace Health Insurance Financial Help information sheet, which provides some background information on availability of financial assistance.
  • My Smart Choice Workbook helps you choose the best insurance policy for you and your family. We provide two versions, both with the same content. Version 1 is a downloadable file for you to manually enter information. Version 2 works as an online form that will automatically calculate totals once you enter in your numbers.

Open Enrollment: Don’t Forget To Check Your Beneficiaries

From time to time, we hear about situations when people unexpectantly pass and their life insurance benefits went to their mother and siblings, instead of their spouse and children.  The policy holder hadn’t updated their beneficiaries and their families were left with nothing. Beneficiaries are the people that you select to receive your money upon passing, and there are lots of stories of how funds have gone to the wrong people. So, while it might be difficult to think about your own passing, you would want to know that your family can afford to make arrangements and cover expenses, which is why you should keep your beneficiaries current.

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Updating your beneficiaries ensures that your funds will take care of the right people upon your passing. (Photo by Annie Spratt)

You will typically complete a beneficiary form when opening a bank account, life insurance policy, or retirement account. The form indicates who you want to receive the funds, which can be one person (a primary) or multiple people. You may also have the option of selecting a secondary or contingent beneficiary, which is the person, or persons, who will receive your benefits if the primary is no longer available.

A good habit is to check your beneficiaries every two to four years and make sure that your policies have the right people listed. Open enrollment season is a perfect time to check. You should also check after major life changes: you get married or divorced; you have a child; the person you listed as beneficiary passes away. Usually, you just need to fill out a simple form and send it back to the insurance company to change your beneficiary.