This year’s open enrollment season is bringing good news for many Obamacare customers.
The time to enroll in health insurance for 2019 is now underway. Patients seeking coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will see their premiums decrease in 20 states.
In many other states, these monthly insurance payments will either remain the same as last year. In others they will nudge up only slightly. These newly announced premiums bring particular cheer after significant rate increases in recent years.
The Open Enrollment Period (OEP) — the period when people are able to sign up for insurance — lasts through December 15 in most states.With some exceptions, now is the only time that you can enroll in an ACA plan. Click To Tweet
Does Everyone Have to Sign Up for an ACA Plan Right Now?
The short answer to this question is no. You do not have to sign up for a plan under the ACA, which is also commonly known as Obamacare.
Switching your health insurance plan may get you more benefits for less money. Even if you like your plan, you should see if a more affordable option has become available.
Many people instead seek health insurance through their employers, while seniors receive it through Medicare, and low-income people can qualify for Medicaid.
If you’re not covered under one of these three categories, online marketplaces like HealthCare.com provide options for comprehensive or narrowly-tailored coverage.
Better plans are created each year. Even if you already have health insurance that will automatically renew, it’s a good idea to see if new local plans are available to you.
No More Penalties for Skipping ACA Coverage: Previously, Americans who passed up healthcare coverage faced penalties under the ACA’s “individual mandate,” which required people to seek basic insurance or pay extra on their taxes. The repeal of this provision in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act means that starting this year these penalties will no longer apply unless you live in Massachusetts, New Jersey, or Washington D.C., which have created their own mandates.
Short-term insurance provides temporary options for new graduates, people between jobs, travelers, and others whose circumstances might introduce a reason not to enroll in a yearlong plan. This stopgap insurance does not count as Obamacare, and would have won you a no-insurance tax penalty before 2019. Short-term plans do not cover pre-existing conditions or ongoing health needs such as dental or vision, but can generally be applied for at any time.
If You Do Want ACA Insurance, Now Is The Time: The OEP from November 1 to December 15 is the one time that you can enroll in a major medical health insurance plan for next year (excepting special circumstances like marriage or pregnancy). The OEP in six states — California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Rhode Island — plus Washington, D.C. extended past December 15 into January.
Changing Healthcare Costs Across the Country
Many Americans seeking plans under the ACA will find more affordable options this year.
For a 27-year-old, single non-smoker, a middle-of-the-road “silver plan” will cost an average of $406 per month next year, the analysis found. This compared to $412 premiums that that same person would have paid last year after monthly rates shot up 36.9 percent.
Even then, most people with ACA plans do not pay the monthly sticker price. ACA plan members usually qualify for significant discounts – or subsidies – that reduce the monthly cost of their plan. A 27-year-old would have to earn a great deal before being asked to spend the full $406 per month on health insurance.
In states not represented by the government analysis, prices are generally increasing, though not at the rates they did last year. Among these states, average premiums in Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, Washington and will be decreasing next year.
Which States Will See the Greatest Obamacare Price Changes? Tennesseans will see the biggest ACA savings. Premiums there decreased to $449 from $608 for the average silver plan. Four other states — New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania — will also see their standard plan rates decrease by more than 10 percent.
In three states — Indiana, Michigan and Wyoming — rates for standard plans will remain the same next year, while in Mississippi and Georgia these rates are increasing by less than one percent.
But not every state is basking in the savings. In North Dakota, for instance, average premiums will increase by 20 percent next year. Though for most states seeing rising healthcare costs, the spikes will not be as dramatic. After many states saw monthly payments double last year, this qualifies as good news.
Other Ways to Save on ACA Plans
Even if healthcare costs are not declining where you live, there are still ways to save during open enrollment. ACA plans are available at different price points.
So-called “bronze plans” provide a lower-cost option. Our average 27-year-old, single, non-smoker could save up to $125 a month by transitioning to a bronze plan from the middle-of-the-road silver plan.
The tradeoff is that bronze plans cover less of a patient’s medical costs. They cover 60 percent of medical bills, compared to silver plans, which cover 70 percent of costs if you need to see a doctor. Alternatively, gold and platinum plans offer higher monthly premiums but cover a higher share of expenses.
Another way to save is to consider catastrophic health insurance. These plans offer much lower monthly premiums, but much higher deductibles, meaning that if you need to see a doctor, you’ll likely end up paying more out-of-pocket. Still, these plans cover all ACA essential benefits including preventive care. They are only available to people under the age of 30 or those with low incomes.
Now that open enrollment has kicked off, it’s time to consider your options. Use HealthCare.com’s Open Enrollment resource guide to get more facts and make the choice that is right for you.
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