It’s time once again to plan next year’s healthcare for you and your family. The annual Open Enrollment Period (OEP) begins on Nov. 1, 2015 and runs through Jan. 31, 2016. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) requires all Americans to purchase coverage during the three-month OEP. And if you want coverage to begin on New Year’s Day, you need to enroll in an Affordable Care Act (ACA)-approved plan by Dec. 15, 2015.
It doesn’t matter whether you live in a state with its own exchange or one utilizing the federally facilitated Marketplace; you still need to enroll or re-enroll. Missing this deadline could mean paying an IRS-imposed penalty. For 2016, this will be the greater of: $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, or 2.5 percent of your income.
Potential Benefits Of Changing Coverage - Aside From Cost Savings
Open enrollment 2016 offers the opportunity to ensure that you have the coverage you actually want and need. That means your preferred benefits, providers and facilities. And, this means that you’re as satisfied as possible with the plan’s costs.
Of course, you may be happy with your current coverage and plan on reenrolling during the OEP. If so, you won’t need to log in to your state’s or the federal website, www.Healthcare.gov or complete a new application. The Marketplace will automatically re-enroll you in your existing plan. And should your existing plan be discontinued in 2016, the Marketplace will automatically shift you to a similar plan.
But even if you’re happy with your current plan, you should still review other options, from privately owned and for-profit companies. That’s because your existing plan may undergo changes for the 2016 calendar year, including those for providers and pricing. Or, the plan may leave the exchange completely.
“It's a good idea to shop around even if you like your plan and everything that's in it,” states Karen Pollitz, senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a nonprofit healthcare organization. By researching and comparing other plan options, you and your family may even end up with better coverage in 2016.
As your plan may be adding or removing providers, different plans may mean more doctors, including specialists. This could be very important, if you or your family have particular health concerns. You may also improve your existing prescription drug coverage. There may even be the matter of different facilities, if distance and convenience matter. Identifying these factors can help you to narrow down the plans provided. But rest assured, these policies all meet the ACA’s coverage requirements.
A different carrier may also allow you to pay lower monthly premiums. If you receive healthcare subsidies or tax credits to help pay for coverage, these amounts may be changing, as well. SubsidyCalculator.com actually provides a free subsidy estimator that is quite simple to use. However, plan costs shouldn’t be the only factor. “Don't just price shop, says Pollitz. “If you just pick the plan with the cheapest premium ... it could cost you way more in medical bills than you saved in your premium.”
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