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Learn » Obamacare » What to Check Before You Renew Health Insurance for 2019

What to Check Before You Renew Health Insurance for 2019

Automatic health insurance renewal is like giving your insurer a key to your bank account.

December 13, 2017 - By Hal Levy - read

If you’re set to automatically renew your health insurance policy for 2019, you could be in for a nasty surprise on December 16, 2018.

When you signed up for health insurance last year, did you agree to automatically re-enroll? If you did and are set to auto-enroll in your same insurance plan, it’s important to review your policy before the December 15 health insurance open enrollment deadline.

Take some time to make sure that there are no significant changes in your policy that could affect covered services or even increase your healthcare spending in 2019. Our checklist will tell you how to protect yourself while saving as much money as possible.

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Automatic Health Insurance Renewal Will Happen Immediately After December 15

Since 2017, automatic health insurance renewal now takes place after it’s too late to change your health coverage for the next year. For most Americans, December 15 is your last chance to sign up for health insurance. On the next day, you’ll be auto-enrolled in your current health insurance plan.

HealthCare.com’s 10-Minute Checklist to Protect Yourself During Auto-Enrollment

10-Minute Auto-Enrollment Checklist | HealthCare.com

1. Speak with Your Current Healthcare Provider

First, make a phone call to confirm that you’re currently signed up for auto-renew health insurance. You should also use this call to find out what plan you’re being auto-enrolled in.

  • Call your health insurance company via phone number on your insurance card, OR
  • You can also contact the federal government’s enrollment help center at 1-800-318-2596. Be warned that these numbers have long wait times. You’ll need to search for your state’s healthcare hotline, if you live in one of these 12 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington state, and the District of Columbia.

2. Find Your Monthly Premium Discount

You can try to calculate your monthly subsidy amount on your own or use one of several available subsidy calculators on the Internet. You could also use HealthCare.com’s health insurance plan comparison engine. We’ll crunch the numbers, and guide you as to how your subsidy level affects you and your family.

3. Compare Available Plans to Your Current Plan

If you use HealthCare.com’s comparison engine, we can compare your 2018 auto-enrollment plan with a range of health insurance options. You can also do this yourself by calling an independent, licensed health insurance agent via our site. It’s free to get price quotes and details for thousands of plans. Then, you can decide whether you’d like to stick with auto-enrollment, or choose a better deal.

On a single page, you can compare:

  • On-Marketplace plans (Obamacare plans offered through the Obamacare exchange);
  • Off-Marketplace plans (Obamacare-compliant plans offered through the private marketplace); and
  • Non-Obamacare options, like temporary health insurance.

Below is our cheat sheet for comparing the most important parts of health insurance:

Deductible and maximum out-of-pocket Your deductible is the amount of money that you pay entirely on your own before your plan starts to cover costs.
Co-payments for services This is what you pay when you visit the doctor.
Monthly premium This is how much you have to pay each month to stay enrolled. Subsidies may help pay for part or all of this cost.
Plan type and provider network Find something with costs that are equal to or better than what you’re about to auto-enroll in, then look into the nitty-gritty of plan types and coverage. The main difference between plan types is the procedure for seeing doctors, and the number of doctors available. Research the individual plan you’ve chosen to see what doctors are covered in your area.

4. Cancel Your Auto-Enrollment, If You Have to

  • Call your insurance company, OR
  • According to Healthcare.gov,
    1. Log into your 2017 application on healthcare.gov or your state’s exchange. (this is last year’s application).
    2. On the “My Coverage” page of your 2017 application, select the blue “STOP COVERAGE FOR 2018” button at the bottom of the page.
    3. Call your insurance provider and confirm.

You can also cancel auto-enrollment without selecting a new plan. Keep in mind, though, that if you do this, then it will effectively leave you without health insurance in 2018 and you’ll have to pay the Obamacare tax penalty.

Why Worry About Automatic Enrollment?

Health insurance sold under the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) only lasts for a maximum of one year. When you first picked a health plan, you may have chosen to automatically renew your healthcare plan for as long as five years. Initially, this was designed to be harmless for consumers; however, health insurance companies have consistently changed their offerings every year, leaving consumers with a different policy than the one they initially chose.

Here are reasons why automatic health insurance renewal can affect consumers:

1. No More Chance to Cancel

Since the start of Obamacare, auto-enrollment had happened with weeks of the annual signup period left to spare. This time, auto-enrollment will take place once plans are unavailable. (Previously, if you were auto-enrolled in a bad health plan, you still had a chance to switch your coverage).

2. Auto-Renewal Can Hurt You

You might assume that if your current plan is no longer being sold, or if it drastically changes, that an auto-enrollment alarm would go off. This isn’t the case. Health insurance renewal keeps chugging along.

Your current health insurance provider can choose which plan to auto-enroll you in, even if the plan doesn’t suit your interests. If a much better value opens up, even from the same company, you won’t be auto-enrolled in a better insurance policy.

If your health insurance provider is no longer around to give input, then you may be sent automatically to a plan that has just a few similarities to your current plan, even if it isn’t what you want.

3. You Can Be Switched to a Different Policy, Company, or Metal Level

Your health insurer might auto-enroll you in a different plan, and you wouldn’t know until after it happens. “I worried, did someone hack my account to sign me up for this?” a shocked consumer asked in The New York Times.

4. Cost Changes to Current Plans

Even if you’re going to enroll in the same plan you had last year, health insurance plans aren’t the same every year. Coverage amounts can change, and monthly prices can increase by seemingly random amounts. In 2018, monthly premiums increased by an average of 34 percent – but with a great deal of variation between plans. The highest allowable out-of-pocket maximums increase each year by several hundred dollars.

5. New Options Are Very Competitive

Government fights over the fate of Obamacare have turned the market upside-down. In many states, generous gold-level plans now cost less than silver-level plans. A new, potentially free option known as the expanded bronze plan has also entered the mix. Insurance price hikes mean that subsidies can make a difference if applied to the right plan.

6. Changes Could Be A Surprise

In some ZIP codes, new carriers have entered. In others, if your insurance company left, you could be assigned to the more expensive of two companies. Some companies even canceled their plans, only to replace them with similar options.

7. You Could Miss Out on Discounts

If you auto-enroll without adjusting your income and household information, you could be losing out on generous subsidies in your favor. You could also face a bill at the end of next year for accidentally getting extra payment help.

Taking the Next Steps

It’s important to shop around every year for a different health insurance policy – even if you are satisfied with your current policy. Before auto-renewing your health insurance plan, make sure you evaluate any changes that could prevent you from seeking care.

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