By Lisa Zamosky
In the world of health insurance, the fall is generally a busy time, and that’s especially true this year.
Right now, there are several open enrollment periods underway, and deadlines are looming for those who wish to either purchase a new health insurance policy or to switch the coverage they currently have.
Here are 3 health insurance deadlines that you should be aware of.
1) Medicare: The Medicare Annual Enrollment period started October 15th and runs through the end of this week. December 7th is the last day for people with a stand-alone Part D prescription drug policy and/or a Medicare Advantage plan to re-evaluate the coverage they currently have and to make changes for 2014.
Be sure to evaluate your options to save as much as possible on your coverage. A recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that people enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans who do not change to a new policy in 2014, on average will see the cost of their premiums rise by almost 14%.
Ross Blair, senior vice president of eHealthMedicare.com says there are four things to focus on when shopping for a Medicare Advantage plan:
- The cost of the monthly premium
- The plan’s maximum out of pocket limit. Be aware that All Medicare Advantage plans must cap your out-of-pocket costs at no more than $6,700.
- Whether your prescription drugs are covered.
- If your doctor participates with the plan
And, don’t forget to shop your Part D prescription drug plan options. Blair’s firm conducted an analysis that found that people who switched to the plan with the lowest total out-of-pocket costs on prescription drugs in 2013 saved an average of more than $600.
2) Employer Insurance: Many employers conduct open enrollment in the fall. Your window to select a new plan for 2014 may already be closed. Be sure to check though, you may still have some time.
As has been the case for years now, workers can expect their company’s plan to come with higher out-of-pocket costs in the form of increased deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance.
However, there may be ways for you to save.
For example, some employers give workers the option to select a plan with a more limited choice of doctors and hospitals but that’s also less expensive. In addition, if you agree to participate in wellness programs, such as those that help you quit smoking or lose weight, some employers will lower your insurance premiums or reward you with cash and gift cards.
Many employees have been confused by all the talk of open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act, and believe they are eligible for subsidies or low-cost insurance plans available under the law. But if you get affordable health insurance at work, that’s not the case.
3) Affordable Care Act Insurance: If you are interested in buying a health plan through the new health insurance Marketplaces set up under the Affordable Care Act, there are a few deadlines to be aware of.
First, if you wish to have a health plan in place by the start of 2014, you’ll need to purchase one by December 23rd. Open enrollment ends on March 31, 2014. If you have a policy in place by then, you’ll avoid the tax penalty for not having insurance.
You’ve likely heard about the troubled Healthcare.gov website and the difficulty people have had signing up for insurance. Maybe you’ve experienced trouble yourself. But this past weekend the government announced big improvements to the site.
In a live online chat this week, WebMD received mixed messages from consumers reliant on the federal website – some had success logging on and completing the enrollment process while others still struggled. The key is to not give up.
One participant on the chat offered a great tip that helped her make it all through the process: reset the application.
Give it a try and please leave your comments below to let me know if it works for you too. Share any other comments and questions in the section below as well.