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5 Things Consumers Shouldn’t Overlook During This Health Insurance Open Enrollment Period

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5 Things Consumers Shouldn’t Overlook During This Health Insurance Open Enrollment Period

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Updated: December 11, 2017    Published: December 11, 2017

5 Things Consumers Shouldn't Overlook During This Health Insurance Open Enrollment Period | HealthCare.com
Image: Francisco Osorio / Flickr

With only a few days left in the health insurance Open Enrollment Period for 2018, we share five tips for consumers still shopping around for health coverage.

Experts are predicting an overall decline in Obamacare sign-ups during this year’s health insurance open enrollment. Even though enrollment numbers in the first 26 days of the 2018 Open Enrollment Period have surpassed last year’s numbers, the shortened length of open enrollment this year means that in the final days of the sign-up period, several million more consumers will need to sign up in order to match last year’s enrollment numbers.

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“This year’s significantly shorter health insurance Open Enrollment Period has prompted millions of Americans to explore their Marketplace options much earlier than they did last year,” says HealthCare.com cofounder Jeff Smedsrud. “But in their haste to get covered, some consumers choose a healthcare plan that doesn’t match their needs. Often, this comes down to consumers not being aware of all of the options available to them.”

For most states in the country, open enrollment for 2018 coverage ends Friday, December 15. This means that many Americans have just a few days left to find ACA-compliant health coverage – or else they may find themselves uninsured and having to pay the Obamacare penalty next year when they file their taxes.

“What most people don’t know is that, as a consumer, you have 10 days to try out any health insurance plan you sign up for,” says Smedsrud. “With plans offered on the ACA exchanges, you may have as many as 90 days.” Smedsrud explains, “If, after that period, you decide you don’t like your insurance policy, you are legally allowed to cancel it without penalty.”

Along with that overlooked fact, HealthCare.com offers five additional tips for Americans who have yet to shop for health coverage.

1. See if you qualify for a zero-cost bronze plan. An estimated 4.5 million uninsured Americans qualify for a bronze plan with no monthly cost. Even those who don’t plan to actively use health insurance can get free preventive care and avoid the expensive Obamacare tax penalty. Shoppers may even come across new expanded bronze plans, which allow enrollees to access extra services before meeting a deductible.

Expanded Bronze Plans, Extended Bronze Plans | HealthCare.com

2. Make sure your plan covers the right prescriptions. The ACA technically covers prescriptions, but read the fine print. Your current insurance plan may change the specific drugs it covers each year. Americans who rely on a specific medicine will want to make sure that their choice of health insurance for 2018 will continue to cover what’s important to them. Read your plan’s drug formulary to make sure the drugs you need are covered.

3. Consider a temporary health plan if you’re waiting for other coverage to begin. Also known as short-term health insurance, temporary plans sport monthly premiums from $50 to $400, depending on age and location. Short-term medical plans are not ACA-compliant and does not cover everything that major medical plans do, but they can affordably protect you in cases of emergency. These increasingly popular plans must be renewed every three months – which is the amount of time you can remain uninsured without facing a tax penalty.

4. Learn if you qualify for an Obamacare tax exemption. If you won’t receive subsidies to pay for your health insurance, the cost of plans in your ZIP code may be high enough to exempt you from the penalty for going without health insurance. Our research shows that the areas with this “affordability gap” ballooned from 2017 to 2018. Our Obamacare affordability gap map below will show if you live in an affected area.

5. Look into alternatives to Obamacare coverage. There are several alternatives to Marketplace coverage. For instance, more than 1 million Americans have joined Christian health ministries, also known as health-sharing or faith-based health plans. These plans are owned by their members and are actually quite responsive. Although faith-based health coverage excludes some treatments, enrollment in a faith-based plan exempts you from the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to buy health insurance.

If you need an easy way to see your coverage options, HealthCare.com’s plan search engine can help you find and compare available Marketplace and off-Marketplace plans.

Taking the Next Steps

There’s just a few days remaining in this year’s health insurance open enrollment. Before the deadline hits on Friday, December 15th, make sure that you’ve found yourself so kind of health coverage for 2018.

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To Get Health Insurance Quotes:

Search our database of Obamacare plans at HealthCare.com.

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