On November 15, the second Open Enrollment Period will begin, allowing you to enroll in health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act. If you don’t have health insurance, this is the time to sign up; if you do have coverage, it’s important to reevaluate your health care needs.
If you’re one of the 7.3 million people who purchased coverage through the Marketplace last year, or you purchased coverage through your state-based marketplace or the GoHealth Marketplace, you may have the option to passively re-enroll by taking no action. Be warned though: doing so might mean missing out on significant savings, ending up with a different plan that you don’t choose yourself and even losing access to your current doctor.
Auto-reenrolling in your current health plan means you will accept the exact same tax subsidy you were granted last year to help pay your new premiums. If your income has increased, you may end up owing the government money for a tax credit that is too large. Auto-reenrolling in your same plan could also mean missing out on an increased tax subsidy – which means you’ll end up paying more than necessary toward your premium each month.
During the active re-enrollment process, you can update your personal details in order to get a new, accurate tax credit estimate and avoid paying too much or owing the government a lump sum at tax time.
New Benchmark Plans
Passively re-enrolling means you could end up paying more for your current plan even if your household income or family size did not change. Tax credits are based on a combination of your household size, income, and the cost of coverage within your market – specifically the cost of a silver-tier benchmark health plan. Health plan rates are changing and with over 25 percent more plans available this year on the Marketplace, the silver-tier benchmark plan in your area may have changed. If a plan with a lower premium becomes the new benchmark plan in your area, the accompanying tax credits will also change.
For example, in Denver in 2014, the benchmark silver plan was a Humana plan with a $250 monthly premium for a 40-year-old. However, according to Kaiser’s market analysis, the benchmark silver plan for 2015 will most likely be a plan offered by a new insurer with a premium of $211 for a person of the same age, meaning the accompanying tax credits will also decrease. So even if your income situation did not change, your tax subsidy could increase or decrease even if you choose to stick with your plan.As a result, if you passively re-enroll, you could get stuck paying for a more expensive health plan using a lower tax subsidy, even though there are new, more affordable options available.
If you choose to passively re-enroll, but your plan won’t be offered in 2015, you will instead be auto-reenrolled in a different plan selected by your insurance company as the most similar to your original within the same metal level. Because you’re not selecting this yourself, you risk being enrolled in a plan that you’re not familiar with or that you don’t want. Instead, it’s best to select your own plan and make sure your coverage fits your needs.
Staying with your plan also does not guarantee that you can stay with your current doctor. If you’re like many Americans, you chose a health plan that your doctor accepted. Health plans adjust not only their rates, but also their provider networks, and they add and remove doctors over time. Just because your doctor was in the network previously does not guarantee that will remain the case next year – especially if your insurance company has moved you to a new plan.
More Plan Options
Come November 15, there will be 77 new insurers selling Marketplace plans, which is equivalent to a 25 percent increase since 2014 Open Enrollment. Insurers that sold on the Marketplace last year are also expanding their offerings. UnitedHealthcare – the country’s biggest insurer by number of lives covered – sold Marketplace health plans in just four states last year. In 2015, however, they plan to sell in 24 states. These new options and expansions will create opportunities for you to choose from a much greater selection of Marketplace health plans this year. If you don’t explore your options, you may be missing out a new health plan that could better suit your budget and health care needs.
Re-enroll with GoHealth
When considering where to shop for a new health plan, make sure to choose an established exchange like GoHealth, whose licensed advisors can guide you through the re-enrollment process. They can provide you with an updated tax subsidy estimate to ensure you take advantage of the savings available to you. GoHealthInsurance.com lets you compare thousands of health plans available in your area from top carriers, including those that have expanded or are new to the Marketplace for 2015.
Make sure you explore all of your options before settling on a health plan this year; don’t let this decision be made for you.