For many, less than two weeks are left to sign up to be covered in 2015 with health insurance. It’s also the last opportunity for anyone who already has insurance to get better coverage at lower costs. February 15th is the final day of Open Enrollment for healthcare coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. This is the time of the year that anybody who wants insurance can buy it.
If you are on Medicare or Medicaid, or have comprehensive health benefits through your job, you’re probably in good shape and have nothing to worry about.
But for people who are uninsured, under-insured, or who pay high premiums for their health insurance, these next two weeks are a window of opportunity.
Four things the Health Insurance Marketplace can do for you:
More Choices. The Marketplace is exactly that, a marketplace where consumers can go to comparison-shop and choose among health plans offered by insurance companies competing for your business. If your only knowledge of HealthCare.gov is based on its debut in 2013, we can understand you might be skeptical. So you’ll have to try it for yourself. It works. And it continues to get better.
Better Coverage. The Marketplace plans offer better coverage than many plans that are still around today. All Marketplace plans cover essential health benefits, from preventive care at no charge (like yearly checkups, vaccinations, and early-detection screenings) to major treatments of chronic or acute conditions (such as major surgeries, specialty medicines, and therapies to manage diseases that aren’t yet cured).
Be Advised. Some health plans offered by certain employers or sold directly to individuals don’t have some of the benefits and protections of Marketplace plans. For example, some don’t cover essential benefits like hospital stays or prescriptions; some can refuse to cover pre-existing conditions; some don’t limit how much patients may owe for their care—which can bankrupt even people who do have insurance. These are true of some “grandfathered plans,” or plans sometimes called “transitional plans.”
Get a Break on Costs. Millions of middle- and lower-income people may qualify for a tax credit you can use right away to lower the monthly cost of Marketplace plans. This financial help can make the difference between affording insurance and not. Most uninsured Americans (1) would qualify for financial help and according to surveys, (2) don’t yet know that. But there’s still time to find out.
What if you Miss the Deadline? (A Bitter Pill.)
Missing the deadline to get covered by health insurance carries two downsides. First is the penalty. Most people who go without insurance during the year will owe a penalty at tax time, and the penalty increases in 2015. Second, illness and injury don’t happen on our timetable, and if that happens, you’ll have to wait until the start of 2016 to get the essential benefits of having comprehensive health insurance coverage.
Now, in special cases, people can get health coverage after the February 15 deadline, and some people may be exempt from the penalty. Oasis certified marketplace counselors can help you sort through these special exemptions.
The bottom line – sometime this year you may become sick or hurt and either (1) regret not getting insurance or (2) be grateful that you did. It’s up to you.
Where to get help
In St. Louis, Oasis can help too.
St. Louis Oasis offers certified marketplace counselors free-of-charge, including in-person, one-on-one consultation. We can explain your options for health insurance coverage and ways to save money on coverage. We can walk you through application and enrollment, and get you covered, as over 7 million people have done so far this year—most of whom qualified for some form of financial help.
So let us help. You may contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call to schedule an in-person appointment at one of our three locations: