So much in healthcare is changing rapidly these days. With a new administration in the White House, there is much speculation and anticipation about what will happen to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare.” Regardless of what ultimately happens with the ACA in the upcoming year (and beyond), open enrollment for a health plan is now in effect. Here’s what you should know:
- Enroll now! Open enrollment happens only once a year, and runs through January 31st, 2017. During this time individuals can enroll in health insurance online through Covered California (www.coveredca.com), or through a certified enrollment counselor for the upcoming year. Individuals who enroll by Friday, January 20th will have a coverage start date of February 1, 2017. Plans selected between January 21 and January 31 will have coverage that starts on March 1, 2017. Individuals eligible for Medi-Cal can enroll at any time during the year.
- Your coverage will be stable through 2017 – Your health insurance is a legal contract, so even if you are reading about changes to the ACA in the news, your health insurance rates, benefits, and coverage will stay the same through 2017.
- It’s important – It can be hard to prioritize buying health insurance for you or your family when you’re healthy, but it’s important for protecting your physical and financial health. A 2013 study done by NerdWallet Health found that medical debt is the largest cause of bankruptcy in the United States. Health insurance protects you from unexpected expenses that can arise from accidents and illness.
- Financial help is available – Most people who enroll under Covered California are eligible for significant financial assistance in paying their monthly premium. In fact, 90% of Californians who enroll under Covered California are eligible for premium subsidies! Nearly 50% of consumers can purchase a silver plan for under $100 per month. Silver plans have low co-pays and deductibles. Furthermore, nearly 60% of Californians who receive tax credits can choose a Bronze level plan for less than $10 per month! Bronze level plans include three visits to a primary care provider or a specialist within a year that are not subject to a deductible. Additionally, shopping around for a better plan can pay off. The majority of individuals who are renewing their insurance through Covered California (78%) could pay less for their coverage this year if they switched to the lowest cost plan within the same metal tier. Low income individuals and families may be eligible for low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal.
- Preventative care is free – Even if you choose a plan with a higher deductible or co-pay, preventative care (e.g. immunizations, well-child visits, health screenings, etc.) are provided for free, regardless of the plan you choose.
- Small business employers and employees have affordable options too – Covered California also has a small business marketplace that offers affordable options for small businesses to cover their employees.
There may be lots of uncertainty about the future of health care these days, but you don’t need to be uncertain about your coverage for 2017. Enroll, and be in good health!
Laura Sheckler is the Community Affairs Manager at the Community Clinic Consortium, which is a member of Solano Coalition for Better Health.