CLEVELAND – Many Ohioans will soon make an important buying decision, besides finding that perfect holiday gift.
It is Open Enrollment time under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), when individuals and families choose a health insurance plan if they aren’t covered by an employer, Medicare, Medicaid or other means.
This Open Enrollment is the second under what’s popularly known as Obamacare. Ohioans must renew their health plans, switch to new ones or enroll for the first time by December 15 for coverage starting January 1. Open Enrollment lasts until February 15 for coverage that starts later in the year.
“We learned some valuable lessons while signing up thousands of Ohioans during the first Open Enrollment,” said Jared Chaney, Medical Mutual Executive Vice President. “There are five important points consumers should know as they shop for health coverage.”
Subsidies make cost less of an issue. A large number of households are eligible for tax credits and other subsidies that reduce monthly costs. A family of four with an income up to $95,400 will generally qualify for tax credits, according to federal guidelines.
The average monthly premium for Ohioans after subsidies was $121, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And, 84 percent of Ohioans who enrolled in the federal marketplace during the first Open Enrollment were eligible for subsidies.
Check the network. This is very important. If you have a favorite doctor or medical facility, check to see that they are part of your health plan’s network of healthcare providers.
Too often after the first Open Enrollment, people who signed up for what they thought was cost-effective coverage found out that their doctor or hospital was not in the plan’s network. That meant they had to go outside the network and pay more to see their doctor.
You can check insurers’ networks by going to their websites or calling them. You can also call your doctor’s office or preferred medical facility and ask what insurance plans they accept.
Don’t wait until the last minute. Finding time to shop for health insurance is a challenge during this busy time of the year. But don’t delay. Last spring, a deadline surge of people trying to enroll bogged down state and federal enrollment systems.
Lots of help is available. Medical Mutual and other insurers have details about plans and subsidies and can help you enroll. Check out their websites or give them a call.
You can also get valuable information and sign up through the federal website, HealthCare.gov, which appears to be performing better this time around after significant improvements.
Many people may feel more comfortable meeting with someone face to face. For that, you can set up an appointment with an independent insurance agent.
Avoid a hit to your finances. By enrolling, you will avoid a costly penalty. Those who fail to buy insurance for coverage in 2015 must pay the higher of two amounts: two percent of their yearly household income or $325 per person ($162.50 for those under 18) with a maximum penalty of $975 per family.
Studies show that medical bills are the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States. Health insurance can give you peace of mind by buffering the impact of major, unexpected costs.
About Medical Mutual of Ohio: Founded in 1934, Medical Mutual of Ohio is the oldest and largest health insurance company based in Ohio. For 80 years, the company has served customers with high-quality, affordable group and personal health insurance plans, and third-party administrative services to self-insured group customers. As a mutual health insurance company, Medical Mutual is unique in that it operates for the benefit of its members. Unlike publicly-traded insurance companies that must maximize their financial return, Medical Mutual does not answer to stockholders or Wall Street analysts.