Shopping For Affordable Health Insurance

Shopping For Affordable Health Insurance

Initial enrollment period in federal government's new Health Insurance Marketplace ends on March 31.

The federal government's "Health Insurance Marketplace" is a new way to shop for health insurance that allows consumers to purchase quality, affordable private health insurance that best meets their needs. You can use one streamlined application to do this. The initial enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace ends March 31, 2014. If you want to enroll and have coverage beginning in 2014, you must enroll before the March 31 deadline.

This reminder and explanation comes from Julie Brookhart, public affairs specialist with the federal government's Kansas City regional office of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. She provides the following information.

GOT MEDICAL INSURANCE?: Farmers and other self-employed people and many of their employees are self-insured. Some have no health insurance. They can't afford it or can't get it for other reasons. However, you can now buy insurance from private health plans through the government's new Health Insurance Marketplace. Deadline for enrollment is March 31 for coverage to begin in 2014.

The Health Insurance Marketplace is not only useful for people who don't have health insurance, it's also helpful if you are looking for a better deal than your current health insurance coverage provides. The marketplace is available online or by calling 800-318-2596.

Do you not have health insurance and need to get it?
There are approximately 255,072 people living in Iowa who are without health insurance. That is about 10% of the entire population of the state. No matter where you live, you may buy insurance from private health plans through this new Marketplace. These plans cover a comprehensive set of benefits, including doctor visits, hospital stays, preventive care and prescriptions. Plans that are in the Health Insurance Marketplace must treat you fairly; they can't deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

With a single application, you also will find out if you qualify for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program, or if you qualify for savings you can use right away to lower your health insurance premiums.

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Many Americans who have used the new Marketplace are also finding that they qualify to get help paying their monthly health insurance premium, and that they cannot be turned down for health insurance due to a pre-existing condition, as they have been in the past. "We know that nearly half of all Marketplace-eligible uninsured young adults are finding health care coverage in the Marketplace that costs $50 or less per month," says Brookhart. "The new healthcare law is delivering the quality, affordable coverage people are looking for. We urge people to go to the website or to call and learn more about this so they can make the best decision for themselves and their family, and enroll before the March 31 deadline."

Medicare and the Health Insurance Marketplace make sense
Nanette Foster Reilly, consortium administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the Kansas City Regional office, which covers Iowa, provides answers to the following common questions.

Question: I know that if I have Medicare coverage, I don't need to shop in the Health Insurance Marketplace. But is there still time for others to shop for health insurance using this government website and still get coverage in 2014?

Answer: Yes. Initial enrollment runs through March 31, 2014. To enroll you can:

•apply online at www.healthcare.gov, or

•call 800-318-2596 (TTY: 855-889-4325) 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or

•You can also find in–person help from certified assisters in your area. Go to http://www.LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov and enter your zip code or city and state

•Initial enrollment runs through March 31, 2014

•Be sure to make your first month's premium payment after you have enrolled in a health plan, and check directly with your plan to ensure that your application for coverage is complete and when it becomes effective.

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"Please educate yourself and others about the Health Insurance Marketplace and what it can offer you or others you know who may not have quality affordable health insurance; it could be peace of mind for years to come," says Reilly.

Question: If I already have medical insurance, what do I need to know about the new federal Health Insurance Marketplace? How can the Affordable Care Act and this new online marketplace help me?

Answer: Thanks to the federal Affordable Care Act, about 85% of Americans who already have health insurance are seeing their benefits and coverage better protected and seeing enhanced benefits. For example, insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime limits on your health insurance benefits so your insurance company can't stop paying their share once you hit a certain dollar amount.

Also, at least 80% of your premium dollar now has to be directed to pay for your health care benefits, and not overhead, such as salaries and bonuses for insurance company executives. If less than 80% is used for health care benefits, your insurance company will owe you a rebate at the end of the year. Also, young adults up to the age of 26 can stay on their parent's insurance. These are just a few examples of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act law, since it was implemented in 2010.

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For uninsured Americans, which is roughly 15% of the nation's population, they will finally gain access to quality, affordable healthcare from private health insurance companies. Initial enrollment began October 1, 2013 through the Health Insurance Marketplace, which is a new way to shop for health insurance. The Health Insurance Marketplace gives Americans who are uninsured, or who buy their own coverage, a whole new way to shop for and choose their coverage.

Question: What are the health care insurance plans that are offered obligated to cover?  Also, I've heard that beginning in 2014 the federal law says everyone must have health insurance coverage. Please explain.

Answer: All private health insurance plans that operate in the Health Insurance Marketplace are required to cover a comprehensive set of benefits, including physician visits, preventive care, hospital stays and prescriptions. Discrimination based on gender and pre-existing conditions is banned. And many individuals and families will qualify for a break on their monthly premium and other out-of-pocket costs -- depending on their income -- through advanced tax credits or through cost-sharing reductions. Be sure to include your income on your application to find out if you qualify for this help.

With nearly half of all Health Insurance Marketplace-eligible uninsured young adults able to get coverage at $50 or less per month, the health-care law is delivering the quality, affordable coverage people are looking for.

It is important for consumers to know that starting in 2014 the law says that individuals of all ages, including children, must have minimum essential health coverage, qualify for an exemption, or make a shared responsibility payment when filing their federal income tax return. Consumers also need to realize that an accident causing a broken limb can cost upwards of $7,500 and a three-day hospital stay can cost thousands of dollars, out of pocket, without health insurance. In some cases, emergency health care costs could unnecessarily bankrupt individuals and families. Health insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace can be peace of mind.

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