Wow! This has been the craziest presidential election of our lifetime…maybe of all time. With Donald Trump staging an unprecedented upset victory over Hillary Clinton, what is the future of Obamacare? One of the cornerstones of the Trump campaign was a pledge to dismantle Obamacare which has experienced eye-popping escalation of premiums as well as the exodus of numerous healthcare providers in many markets. I expect we will see significant changes but those changes will take time. For now, many of you face decisions about your choice of a health insurance plan, and making the right choice could significantly affect your pocketbook. To help guide you through the most important considerations, I interviewed one of my partners who is an expert in the field, Kimberly Reynolds MS, CFP®. If you’re not on a company group plan and must buy your coverage, here’s what you need to know:
Stewart: When is open enrollment?
Kimberly: You must enroll by December 15, 2016 for coverage to begin January 1, 2017. The last enrollment date is January 31, 2017 for coverage to begin March 1, 2017.
Stewart: What are your options in Alabama?
Kimberly: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama is the only company offering individual and family plans directly and on the Health Insurance Marketplace. Humana and United Healthcare are exiting the Alabama market completely and not selling plans to Alabamians in 2017.
Stewart: Must you buy directly through BCBS or the Health Insurance Marketplace?
Kimberly: BCBS is providing eight plans directly and six plans on the health insurance marketplace. If you qualify for a subsidy, then you must enroll for a plan through the health insurance marketplace at www.HealthCare.gov. If you do not qualify for a subsidy, then you can enroll for a plan directly through BCBS.
Stewart: How does someone evaluate which plan is best for their situation?
Kimberly: Your plan options are Gold, Silver and Bronze. Gold level plans have the highest premiums with less out-of-pocket costs and are more ideal for individuals or families who anticipate using significant medical services during a given year. Bronze level plans have the lowest premiums but you will have the burden of higher out-of-pocket costs so it is more appropriate for individuals or families with excellent health and who don’t anticipate using healthcare services for the coming year. If you choose the Bronze plan, be sure you have an adequate emergency reserve to cover potential out-of-pocket costs if needed. Silver plans are in the middle and tend to have the best balance of premium and out-of-pocket cost.
For example: A family of four; parents age forty with two children ages eleven and ten; a Bronze plan will cost approximately $1000 per month and a Gold plan will cost approximately $1,800 per month. The premium for the Silver plan falls in between.
Stewart: What has to change with healthcare insurance?
Kimberly: The bottom line is policy premiums have increased over 50 percent the past two years. This increase cannot continue because families cannot afford to pay these premiums. We will have to wait and see what new legislation and changes are put together to make healthcare more affordable for American families.
Understand that under the current system, you get to make the choice of healthcare plan every year and you can’t be turned down because of a change in your health status. However, making the right choice this year can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.