Is Time Running Out to Enroll In Health Insurance Coverage?

168721185Wow, we have been busy at Avera Health Plans! We are receiving more than 100 enrollment applications daily from the marketplace at healthcare.gov and we are enrolling many more directly through our website.

It is a priority that we are available to answer questions for individuals, agents and business owners. And with the on-going news coming out of Washington with changes we have more information to help individuals get or keep their health insurance. Let’s talk about the most recent changes.

  1. In November, insurance companies sent out cancellation notices to their policyholders. These notices were for plans that did not meet the standards that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) puts into place on Jan. 1, 2014, for individual and small employers. In some instances, health insurance carriers offered their customer a policy that was similar to their current coverage and in other instances, the company decided to exit the market entirely, leaving their policyholder to shop for a new ACA policy. The federal government announced on Dec. 19, 2013, they would also allow hardship exemptions for individuals who lost their coverage due to cancellations.
  2. Then, the week before Thanksgiving, the federal government issued guidance that we have come to call “transitional relief.” If you like the plan you have, you can keep the plan you have. The reason for transitional relief was to afford individuals and small employers who had policies in place on Oct. 1, 2013, to keep the old plans for a longer period of time before having to transition to an ACA plan.

We have had many calls from individuals wanting to know if they should move to an ACA plan or stay on their current plan. One of those questions came from a family who received one of those cancellation notices back in November. Their option was to accept a very expensive alternative plan from their current carrier or to shop for health insurance. They chose to shop for health insurance. And the result? A more than $10,000 in premium savings annually. Now, this is an unusual story. But think about it. When was the last time you shopped your car insurance rates or your home owner’s insurance policy? If you are like me, time would be measured in years for the former, decades for the latter. Most people are more apt to refinance a home loan to save interest, than they are in spending a few minutes going to healthcare.gov/find-premium-estimates/ to find discounts on premiums or better coverage.

Open enrollment is available for individuals until March 31, 2014, so there is still plenty of time. With the technology problems early on at healthcare.gov, the government extended enrollment for a Jan. 1 effective date to Dec. 23, 2013. Health insurance carriers throughout the nation are providing greater flexibility to allow enrollees until Jan.10, 2014, to pay their January premium.

So if you want coverage on Jan. 1, 2014, you need to get moving. To make sure your policy is in effect on Jan. 1, make sure you have submitted your enrollment application either to us directly or through healthcare.gov and pay your premium by Dec. 31, 2013.  Avera Health Plans accepts payments through Jan. 10, 2014, for Jan. 1 start dates, but we don’t want you to have to deal with filing claims for insurance needs between Jan. 1 and Jan. 10.

And if you miss the Dec. 23 date, you do have time. In fact, you have until March 31, to select a health plan that is right for you.

By Deb Muller

Chief Administrative Officer at Avera Health Plans