Saturday, February 7, 2015

Open Enrollment For Health Insurance Marketplace

Time to renew your health plan – or shop for a new one for 2015. Here's how to get the most from marketplace open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act.
If the term “open enrollment” makes you a bit anxious, you’re already ahead of the game. At least you're aware that health insurance plans have these periods. If you're insured by your employer, open enrollment probably happens once a year in October, November or December. For Medicare, the period in 2014 is October 15 to December 7. And if you qualify for healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, the opening date is November 15, 2014.
According to a recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, about 9 in 10 of uninsured Americans do not know when the next open enrollment period for marketplace insurance purchased under the Affordable Care Act begins. Just over half don’t know that low and moderate-income people can get financial assistance to help them purchase insurance.
Open Enrollment for marketplace policies starts November 15, 2014, for coverage starting as early as January 1, 2015. It ends on February 15, 2015. This is the window for renewing or changing your insurance, or purchasing a policy. However, if you lose your employee-sponsored or other health insurance after the window closes you can apply at any time.
If you need to buy your own insurance, take heart from the fact that, according to a recent Gallup poll, the majority of Americans newly insured in the marketplace give their coverage good marks. Most of the newly insured (74%) rated the quality of the healthcare they received as excellent or good. And 71% said the same about their healthcare coverage. These satisfaction levels were about the same or better than those of the average insured American.
Renewing Marketplace Health Insurance
If you enrolled in coverage for 2014, you will likely be automatically renewed in your plan or a similar one for 2015. But it's important to update your income and household information, and check for any increase in costs. Also find out whether your medications will still be covered next year – and what they will cost you. If you are taking any new medications or have other changes in your healthcare needs, make sure your current plan is still the best available choice for you. If you’d like to change plans, you can do so during open enrollment.
If your plan has been cancelled, there’s a hotline (1-866-837-0677) for talking to a representative who will help you find coverage.
Rate Increases for 2015
Data released by the federal government in November suggest that prices for some 2014 policies purchased on the federal or state marketplaces will substantially increase for 2015. The increase can be as much as 20%. However, the price increase can be kept to as little as 4% or 5% for people willing to shop around for another policy.
Analysis by the New York Times found that premium increases were largest in areas where there were fewer insurance plans available. Fortunately, about 25% more insurers are participating in the marketplaces for 2015, giving consumers a choice of an average of 40 different plans. Overall, nine out of 10 applicants will have at least three competing insurers to choose from.
For applicants, reports of national or statewide premium changes are not as important as the details of the particular plans you are considering.  If you purchased marketplace insurance for 2014, you can compare 2015 plans and prices to your current coverage before you decide whether to stay in the plan you have for 2015 or enroll in a different one.
The Bottom Line
Even if you’re happy with your marketplace health insurance, it's wise to shop around for 2015 coverage. Rates for some policies have soared, while increases for others are quite modest so you want to be sure you have reviewed all your options. It’s also important to update your income and household information so that any tax credits you receive will be accurately calculated. Use this quick step-by-step action plan to make sure you touch all the bases for staying covered for 2015.

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