The Clock is Ticking on Health Insurance Enrollment

It’s that time of year again. Open enrollment for the 2018 Affordable Care Act health insurance starts on November 1 and ends on December 15, a brief six-week period. So now’s the time to get all your information together in order to enroll or re-enroll in a health insurance plan.

Most people can only sign up for health insurance in the Marketplace health insurance exchange (www.healthcare.gov) during the annual open enrollment period. However, if you have a “qualifying life event,” such as getting married, having a baby, or losing your health coverage, then you can be given special permission to sign up for a health insurance plan when open enrollment is closed.

The Marketplace is a vehicle for searching for health care coverage that best fits your own family’s needs. Every health plan offered through the Marketplace is required to make available the same set of essential benefits, including doctor visits, preventive care, hospitalization, prescriptions, and more. This makes it easy to compare plans based on price, benefits, quality and other features important to you and your family before you make a choice. And it only takes a few minutes to see which plans are available for you. If you have a computer, visit www.healthcare.gov to get a quote for 2018 plans based on your age, household size, income, location and smoking status, or call the MLA office for help.

The 2018 Marketplace for Maine offers plans from just two health insurance companies, Community Health Options and Harvard Pilgrim. Anthem will not be offering plans in the Marketplace in 2018. If you are currently enrolled in an Anthem plan, you will need to enroll in a new plan through Community Health Options or Harvard Pilgrim. Consumers will be able to browse plans offered by these two companies on the Marketplace (www.healthcare.gov) and compare levels of coverage before choosing a plan. The health care plans are categorized as Bronze, Silver and Gold. There are also catastrophic plans for those under 30 or others who qualify for a hardship exemption or affordability exemption.

In order to get ready to enroll in a health insurance plan, here are some good things to think about:

  • What is your budget? How much can you afford to pay each month for health insurance?
  • What is your income, and what do you think it will be next year? (Remember, you can always make changes to your income throughout the year in your Marketplace account.)
  • Are there any specific doctors, services, or medications that you want your plan to cover? Make sure to bring a list of these for your enrollment appointments.
  • Gather basic information about your household: Social Security numbers, birthdates, incomes, and tax returns.

The MLA provides assistance for Maine fishermen and their families so that they are well informed about the Affordable Care Act requirements, subsidies, and penalties. The penalty for not having health insurance in 2018 is $695 per individual or up to 2.5% of household income, whichever is greater. MLA’s health care Navigators are here to make sure that fishermen and their families who are interested in learning more about insurance options and health care have access to the right information, and to assist them with their health insurance options and enrollment. If you find a plan through the Marketplace that you want to sign up for, it is important to have all of your information ready before you begin the enrollment process. To prepare, consider the following:

  • If you already have a Marketplace account, make sure to bring your username and password with you.
  • If you do not have a Marketplace account, make sure you have an email address and know how to log into your email account. You will need an email address to create your Marketplace account.
  • Estimate your income by referring to previous years of tax returns and W-2’s. You will need to estimate your household income for the upcoming year in order to enroll.
  • How do you fi le your taxes: jointly or individually?
  • What deductions do you take when you fi le your taxes? (for example, student loan interest, alimony you pay, moving expenses, and contributions to retirement accounts.)
  • How many dependents are in your household? Do you have dependents who are not your children living with you? Does someone else claim your child as a dependent, but you cover the medical costs? For each individual you are seeking health insurance for, you will need Social Security number and date of birth.

Be sure to visit www.healthcare.gov to see what plans are available. If you would like to set up an appointment, please contact me at 207-967-4555 or email bridget@mainelobstermen.org.