We are only a few months away for the next Open Enrollment, the annual opportunity to rethink your individual health insurance policy. Many of you earn too much or too little to qualify for a Tax Credit Subsidy. If you don’t qualify for a subsidy, due to income or for any other reason, you don’t need to go anywhere near healthcare.gov or the national frustration number. And, this post isn’t for you.
Today’s post is specifically for those of you who will qualify for a subsidy.
The government is still telling Americans how easy it is to purchase insurance on the exchange, so simple that anyone can wander on to the site and buy the perfect policy. Experience is, of course, very different.
I have spent hours upon hours on the government’s website. And yes, it is better now than it was last year. It still crashed this week while I was trying to help a client adjust his subsidy, but the site was only down for a couple of hours, not days. I have experienced the glitches, crashes, and unanticipated problems. I’ve had the 2 and 3 hour phone conversations with the call center. And I have had to seek help from Senator Sherrod Brown’s office and other government employees to help my clients get the access to insurance that they were promised. I am not alone. Many of my peers have encountered the same issues and more.
But our clients don’t experience the avoidable problems.
Major preventable issues:
- Choosing the wrong metal tier
- Choosing a policy that doesn’t include your doctor or hospital
- Choosing a policy that requires referrals to see a specialist
Most people understand how the Tax Credit Subsidy helps individuals and families pay for insurance. The target is an income of approximately 133% to 400% of the federal poverty level. But there is a second subsidy, the Cost-Sharing Assistance Benefit. If you are subsidy eligible and have an income of 250% of the federal poverty level or less (around $29,000) for a single), you are also eligible for a reduction in your deductibles, copayments, and maximum out of pocket. To get this additional benefit, this potential savings of thousands of dollars, you must purchase a silver level policy.
It is estimated that as many as 2 million individuals, 25% of those eligible, are failing to get these benefits. Link to Kaiser Health News, an invaluable resource.
I’ve talked with many people who were shocked to learn that the policy that they picked out on the exchange didn’t cover them at the Cleveland Clinic. Worse, some have called to complain that the new, cheap policy they chose doesn’t include the Cleveland Clinic or University Hospital in their network. Understanding the networks and choosing a policy that you can use are the first steps towards customer satisfaction. Bad fit is not an insurable event. Pick the wrong policy and you may be stuck for the whole year.
This blog has long been critical of PPO policies that require individuals to get a referral from their primary care doctors to visit a specialist. The process is cumbersome and inefficient. The primary care doctor may or may not be compensated for the additional paperwork. The policy descriptions on the exchange do not clearly note this requirement on some of the policies. Only someone familiar with the insurance products can help you avoid this pitfall.
Agents around the country will take their annual exchange training next month. We will spend hours learning this year’s policies and how to make the government’s website work. You don’t need to call me. There are lots of qualified agents, marketplace certified, throughout the country. A good starting point is the National Association of Health Underwriters. There is also a local chapter in Northeast Ohio.
Or you can go your own way.
Vase from Zeber-Martell Gallery and Clay Studio