Questions and Answers about Health Insurance
Health Insurance: There is so much change right now. What is fact?
Facts about Health Insurance:
- Nationally, open enrollment ended December 15, 2017. But this does not impact us in Colorado.
- Colorado’s open enrollment period ends January 12, 2018 (for February 1st coverage). Colorado has its own insurance marketplace—www.connectforhealthco.com.
- The ACA is still law and tax penalties still apply. If you do not have insurance in 2018, you will be fined.
These are the facts, but there are a lot of questions floating around about open enrollment and possible changes to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Our health coverage guide, Kim Long, has heard them all and the answers vary.
Are premiums affordable?
Bob brought in a letter from Connect for Health stating that the premiums he pays “full premium minus the Premium Tax Credit amount” will “go down by 20% on average in 2018.” However, when he enrolled, Bob found that his premiums with his tax credit actually increased—by a lot. The reality is that the Western Slope (which includes Grand County) has some of the highest insurance premiums in the country. Unfortunately, the letter Bob received applies mainly to the Front Range because the majority of Coloradan’s live in the Front Range and have this experience. Do not expect premium reductions here.
Jane called Kim Long because as a single mother of two children, she couldn’t afford the premiums she was seeing online. With tax credits, her cheapest option was $850 a month for a bronze plan for her family of three. While cheaper than what Bob was seeing, it was still too expensive for Jane who pays $800 a month for her mortgage and barely scrapes by. Unfortunately, Jane and her family will go uninsured next year and a pay the penalty of 2.5% of her gross income when she files her 2018 taxes.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, George and Mary received a higher tax credit this year that makes plans affordable for them. In fact, they had bronze plan options with $0 premiums and very affordable rates for a silver cost-sharing plan. While the bronze plan had no monthly premium, it had a higher deductible and could cost them more out-of-pocket over the year. Kim helped them look at the overall costs and decide what makes the most sense for them based on their monthly income and day-to-day healthcare needs.
Can I just auto-renew?
A lot of people have been able to auto-renew their 2017 policy for 2018 coverage. If you have this option, be sure to read your renewal letter carefully—your premiums may have increased. If you have already renewed, it is not too late to make changes. For instance, if you cannot afford the increased premium of your silver plan, there may be a bronze plan available at the same price as your current silver plan. Just remember that your total out-of-pocket expenses may go up with the switch.
What about Medicaid and Medicare enrollment?
Joe saw on the news that Obamacare enrollment was ending on December 15. He called for an appointment because he has Medicaid. Enrollment for Medicaid, however, is year-round. Since Joe had enrolled in August, he did not need to worry at this time. Kim told Joe to call when he receives renewal information or if his income increases and he loses his Medicaid coverage.
Medicare has its own deadlines. When Edna called for help in purchasing a supplemental plan, Kim connected her to our region’s Medicare counselor who could walk Edna through her options.
Is it too late to get coverage?
If you have not yet enrolled for 2018 health insurance coverage, there is still time and help available. Kim Long will be assisting people in person through the January 12 deadline with Connect for Health Colorado enrollment. Call Kim at 970-531-4769 for an appointment.
You can also call Connect for Health at 855-752-6749 or visit their website at www.connectforhealthco.com. Connect users have seen reduced wait times on the phone, improved customer service, and a smoother online process this enrollment period.
Finally, if you do not qualify for advanced payment tax credits due to your income, you can contact an insurance broker directly. For broker information, contact Grand County Rural Health Network at 970-725-3477 or Connect for Health Colorado.