By now you’ve heard the news that the long-awaited health insurance exchanges are open for enrollment October 1st, 2013. Is the hype making you feel you need to cruise over to the Exchange website right this minute to sign up for a plan? Or so confused you want to avoid it all?
Our tip: walk, don’t run, over to the Exchanges, but make sure you do do it before the year ends. The deadline to enroll is December 15th if you want your plan to start as early as possible (January 1st 2014).
So there’s no rush to enroll but here’s what you should make sure to do before open enrollment closes:
Early October – Determine whether you need to get coverage through the Exchange.
Not everyone does. If you already have coverage through your employer or Medicare, you don’t need to sign up for the Exchange. After all, the idea isn’t to get everyone on the Exchanges, it’s to give everyone an option. So if you’re one of those people who has an incredibly expensive plan, are uninsured, or you’ve been denied coverage because you’re sick, this is for you. Otherwise, this might be something to skip.
Late October – Start shopping for plans & gathering the info you need.
If you’ve decided you want to buy coverage from the Exchanges, click on over to www.healthcare.gov to start. You’ll be able to enter your income information too to see if you’re eligible for either a premium subsidy or assistance with co-pays & co-insurance.
November – Do your final comparison and enroll.
Before you choose a plan, always make sure you understand the cost sharing and limitations. Fortunately, the health reform act makes this much easier by introducing standardized tiers of plans (Bronze, Silver, Gold, & Platinum) so you can compare across these plans.
You can breathe a sigh of relief that all the plans on the Exchanges must cover a list of basic “essential health benefits”. But you’ll want to check whether your plan has a provider network and that all of your current doctors and hospitals are part of that network.
When you think you’ve found the plan you want, complete your enrollment online or over the phone. While the deadline isn’t until December 15th, you’ll be glad you got it out of the way before the holidays.
December – Kick back and relax!
Congrats, you just completed enrolling in a new health plan. And just as an epilogue…
January – Starting using your new plan.
February & March – Enroll (for real this time!) if you missed your chance earlier on.
Since it’s the first year for this Exchange business, there is a grace period through March 31st. But beware, next year the deadline is December 15th, period. That means you will be unable to purchase insurance until the next open enrollment in October 2014.
Ready? Set… walk!by