One of the key features of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is that it guarantees health coverage for everyone at an affordable price. But what do you do if you’re on a tight budget?
When shopping for plans on the Health Insurance Marketplace, you’ll find many options available to you, depending on where you live and what you’re willing to pay. It may seem tempting to select the cheapest plan possible, check the box that says “sign up for health insurance” on your to-do list, and call it a day. Resist that urge!
On the Health Insurance Marketplace, you’ll find four levels of plans that offer four levels of coverage. So when the time comes to pull out your insurance card for a doctor visit, emergency service, or drug prescription, you’ll want a plan that provides the coverage you need. That’s why it’s extremely important to consider value when selecting your plan. Here’s how:
- First, find out if you qualify for financial assistance. Depending on your household income and household size, you may be eligible to receive help in the form of an Advance Premium Tax Credit. These tax credits, or savings, lower the cost of your monthly premium.
You can find out if you qualify for assistance when the Marketplace opens on November 15th.
- Second, determine your “must-have” benefits. There are plenty of plans out there, so selecting just one to cover you can be a bit daunting. The best thing you can do for yourself is to know what you need before you start.
For example: If you’re an athlete, maybe you need access to your favorite physical therapy facility. If you’re expecting, maybe there’s a women’s hospital or pediatric provider you prefer. If you’ve seen the same doctor for your whole life, make sure he/she is in your network.
So ask yourself: “What are my must-haves?” And then, with your budget in mind, find a plan that meets those needs.
- Third, understand the terms. By now, you may have heard the words “premium” and “deductible” in relation to health insurance. Here’s what they mean:
Your premium is the monthly cost of health insurance regardless of whether you receive health care services or not.
Your deductible is the amount you pay for health care services during the year before your health insurance begins to pay.
In order to choose the plan that’s right for you, think about how you’ll use it. If you only see a doctor once or twice a year and you want to keep your monthly payments down, a plan with low premiums and a higher deductible may be better for you.
On the other hand, if you have a need for a number of healthcare services, it might be worth paying a little more each month in premiums for a lower deductible.
- And finally, save the date! Toward the end of each year, the government designates a certain period of time to sign up for health insurance. This is called open enrollment. If you’re not already covered, you can sign up for 2015 coverage between November 15, 2014, and February 15, 2015. (If you have a qualifying life event during the year, you can sign up for coverage on the Health Insurance Marketplace after open enrollment ends.) And don’t forget, if you choose not to enroll in coverage, chances are you’ll be charged a tax penalty for not having health insurance next year!
There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a health plan on the Health Insurance Marketplace. Keep these quick tips in mind when choosing the plan that’s right for you!