Archive for December, 2013

Pay More Attention to the March 31 Health Insurance Deadline

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

There is a lot of false information circling around about Affordable Care Act deadlines.  If you’ve been told that the deadline for obtaining health insurance coverage is January 1, don’t worry if you haven’t found a plan yet.  January 1 is actually the first day that you can take advantage of subsidized health insurance coverage if you have signed up in time and paid your premium in time.  It is not a deadline, but an opportunity, according to Dr. David Blumenthal.  This information comes from Insurance News Net’s “The Big Deadline for Coverage is March 31.”  Much of the confusion about deadlines stems from the fact that they have been changing since this health insurance law took effect.  Even the January 1 deadline has been extended to the following Tuesday for consumers shopping on the healthcare.gov website.

You have until March 31 to obtain health insurance coverage before you will actually be penalized for not having insurance.  Penalties will come when you file your taxes for 2014.  If you miss the January 1 deadline, which is  now January 10, you won’t be penalized for anything.  Basically, you just aren’t taking advantage of being insured with a federal subsidy as soon as you could.  But with millions of uninsured Americans, not all of them are searching for health insurance from the state or federal health insurance exchanges.  Not everyone will qualify for a subsidy.  If you do qualify for a subsidy, buying health insurance through a state or federal exchange is likely in your best interest.  There are many uninsured Americans who do not qualify for tax subsidies, so they don’t have to worry about the January deadline.  They do have to worry about the March 31 deadline though.  In order to avoid receiving a penalty when you file taxes next year, shop for an individual health insurance plan before the March 31 deadline.

Individual Health Insurance Mandate Changes

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

In Robert Pear’s New York Times article, “Another Rule in Health Law Is Scaled Back,” he tells Americans that even more people will be exempt from penalties for not buying health insurance.  The secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, just announced this big shift that was put into place by President Obama.  He has been working to tweak the Affordable Care Act, which has drawn a lot of scrutiny because of Americans receiving cancellation notices from their health insurers.  Changes to the minimum health insurance requirements have forced insurance companies to send cancellation notices to a lot of people.  In most cases, they are offered a new plan that includes more benefits to match the minimum standards.  But the cost of those plans is much higher as well, a cost that some Americans say they simply can’t afford.

The White House announcement says that those people who have had their current individual health insurance plans cancelled will have a new option.  They can enroll in a catastrophic coverage plan if they are eligible for a hardship exemption because more people will now be eligible.  This way they will not receive a penalty in 2014 for not carrying health insurance.  Catastrophic insurance plans can be bought through the government health insurance exchanges.  They were available before this change, but only to people under 30 or those who qualified for a hardship exemption.  They provide the most basic of health insurance coverage.  The White House says that any consumer who thinks that the health insurance options available in the exchanges are more expensive than their cancelled health insurance policy is eligible to get only catastrophic coverage.  Many insurers are surprised by this change and believe that it takes away from the individual mandate imposed by the Affordable Care Act.  If you are looking for a new health insurance plan, compare health quotes to see if you can find affordable coverage.

College Students Have Choices When it Comes to Health Insurance

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

College students often underestimate the importance of health insurance.  They believe that they are young and healthy and don’t want to “waste” money from their low-paying jobs to pay for something of which they can’t see the immediate value.  ABC News recently published Bankrate’s article, “Top 6 Health Insurance Options for College Students,” by Chris Kissell.  The article stresses the importance of health insurance to college students and highlights the fact that it is easier than ever for them to find a health insurance plan.  There are more options than ever before.

Perhaps the simplest option is to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan.  This won’t work for someone whose parents are uninsured, but everyone else under the age of 26 can now stay on their parents’ plans.  Sometimes this is tricky if students go to a college out of state though.  Make sure that there is somewhere to see a doctor in-network or try to schedule your doctors appointments when you are home for a break.  If remaining on your parents’ health plan isn’t an option, try to sign up for a health insurance plan through your college.  Many colleges offer plans to students and the cost can even be included with your tuition and paid by student loans.  Some college plans have limited coverage though, so read the details carefully to know what you are getting.

Another health insurance option is to shop in a health insurance exchange created by Obamacare.  Most students have low enough income that they can qualify for a subsidy to help them pay for their plan.  Students can also sign up for something called ‘catastrophic coverage’ through the health insurance exchanges.  These plans have low premiums and high deductibles.  Preventative care is covered, but beyond that deductibles are high.  This type of plan might work for some students, but one health ailment could lead to high medical bills.

As some states expand their Medicaid programs, students may be eligible to apply for this government health insurance.  Their entire family’s income would have to meet the poverty qualifications for them to be eligible for Medicaid.  Not all states are expanding their Medicaid programs, so this won’t be an option for all low-income college students.  Most Americans will be required to have health insurance or face a fine from the government.  But college students earning less than $10,000, exempting them from filing income taxes, won’t be forced to carry health insurance.  Forgoing health insurance can be dangerous and costly though, so search for an individual health insurance plan if none of the other options work for you.

Personal Stories of Americans Looking for Health Insurance

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

Just say the words health insurance in public right now and you are likely to incite some type of debate.  It’s a hot button issue because of the Affordable Care Act, people losing health insurance coverage, and a new government site that is running anything but smoothly.  In “Barriers to health insurance: doubt, distrust, and glitches,” Maggie Fox of NBC News gives us three personal stories of Americans dealing with health insurance problems.  One woman has been trying, unsuccessfully, to find a plan on the government website for months.  One man has seen his existing insurance plan canceled and will have to pay considerably more for an acceptable plan.  But he won’t even give the website a chance because of all of the negative talk he has heard.  And another woman’s insurance company has doubled her premiums, but she won’t shop elsewhere because she trusts her current insurer.

The first woman highlighted has tried for more than two months to get an insurance plan on the government website, run by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  She has run into countless barriers and error messages in her quest to find affordable health insurance.  Most of the time, she can’t even make it to the sign-in page.  She has received help from the call center and said that the workers were kind and helpful, but they were running into glitches as well.  She will keep trying until the site is working correctly.  Next, a man in Indiana has been worrying about what to do with his health insurance.  His plan was canceled because it does not meet the new requirements.  Without action being taken on his part, his insurance company will issue a “comparable plan” that costs $1,000 more than his original plan each month.  Rather than deal with the headache he anticipates on the government website, he is relying on help from an insurance agent to maintain his insurance.

Finally, the story of a female lawyer from Iowa is highlighted.  She has been paying for individual health insurance from Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield for 16 years.  Her premiums have increased to $11,565 per year.  When asked why she wasn’t shopping for more affordable insurance premiums, she said that she trusts her insurer and appreciates the continuity.  The article authors found plans through the government website that would cover this lawyer ranging in price from $2,820 per year to $7,250 per year.  But she is strong in her conviction that she doesn’t want to comparison shop because she is comfortable where she is.  She does think that the Affordable Care Act will work in the long run to make health insurance more affordable for Americans.  It often takes awhile for new programs to run smoothly, so she is willing to wait it out and hope for lower health insurance premiums in the future.  If you are looking for health insurance, Compare Health Rates can help get you free quotes from multiple insurance companies.