It’s almost time to sign up for insurance coverage for 2019 under the Affordable Care Act. Enrollment opens Nov. 1 and ends Dec.15. In breaking from last year, premiums are not expected to go up for 2019 and, for some, may decrease.
The signup time is limited, so the Clarion Ledger complied a list of things you need to know to make sure you’re insured.
What is the Affordable Care Act?
The ACA, commonly referred to as Obamacare, is a marketplace for insurance. Enacted in 2010, the ACA was intended to make health care more affordable. According to healthcare.gov, “The law provides consumers with subsidies or premium tax credits that lower costs for households with incomes between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level.”
What does it take to sign up?
Those wanting to enroll can visit www.healthcare.gov. The website will take you through a series of questions that ask for your basic information including zip code, the number of people in your household and your expected income for 2019.
You’ll then be directed to the insurance plans available to you and can choose which one is right for you and your household.
Open enrollment is only open once a year but you can sign up during a special enrollment if you get married, have a baby or lose your current health insurance.
Remember, you can enroll in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program anytime of the year.
Who can get insurance under the ACA?
Any citizen or lawful resident of the United States can get health insurance through the ACA and no one can be turned down for insurance based on their medical history. For a complete list of those eligible for coverage, visit https://www.healthcare.gov/immigrants/immigration-status/.
How much does it cost?
That depends on which plan you choose. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, going into 2018, insurers on average likely increased rates more than was necessary. As of mid-2018, insurers in the individual market are doing quite well financially on average, so many are unable to justify another year of premium increases going into 2019. Therefore, despite repeal of the individual mandate penalty and expansion of more loosely regulated plans in 2019, premiums in much of the country are holding flat or decreasing relative to 2018.
Do I get penalized if I don’t have insurance?
No. To encourage healthy people to sign up, the ACA used to impose a penalty for those who did not have health insurance. However, effective in 2019, Congress eliminated that penalty as part of tax reform legislation.
The Kaiser Family Foundation noted though, despite the lack of penalty, “it is important to have coverage in case you get sick.”
How long am I covered if I enroll?
It depends on which plan you choose. Short-term coverage is available, with plans providing coverage from three months to 364 days. However, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, shorter-term policies are medically underwritten and denial is “likely for people with pre-existing conditions” for those policies. Short-term policies also cover less than ACA-compliant plans.
Also, if you lose your short-term policy, it does not “trigger a special enrollment period.” Some states prohibit short-term policies or apply ACA rules. Mississippi is not one of those states.
I’m an employer. How can I help my employees?
According to a recent survey by insurance company UnitedHealthcare, 77 percent of Americans say they are prepared for open enrollment. However, just 6 percent of survey respondents could successfully define all four basic health insurance concepts: plan premium, deductible, co-insurance and out-of-pocket maximum. Talk with your employees about their options and make sure they know what insurance your company offers.