The end of the year is usually a season when people spend quality time with family, reflect on the year past and plan for the upcoming year.
With the Affordable Care Act (ACA) now in full force, it is also a time to shop for your 2015 health insurance plan.
If you’ve never purchased independent health insurance, this can be a tricky and slightly overwhelming ordeal. Once your plan is selected, you can’t change until the next open enrollment at the end of the year, unless you have a qualifying event like change in employment.
Buying health insurance is particularly important for those with chronic conditions like diabetes, heart conditions, or allergies. There are several factors you need to consider.
Premium. As your main monthly payment, this is often the first criteria you use when considering plans. As the premium goes down though, other expenses can creep up, which may add up to a larger monthly payment than a higher premium.
Copayments/Coinsurance. Most doctors’ visits and prescription plans work with either a copayment, set amount you pay, or coinsurance, percent of a total. Take a look at the different options and consider whether you see primary care physicians more than specialists, and what tier your prescription drugs fall into with each plan.
Deductible. With car insurance, this is usually the cost you have to pay out of pocket to get repairs made. Things are a little with health insurance. With some plans, every payment (office visits, prescriptions, hospitals, medical equipment) go toward your deductible amount. With others, only higher-ticket items do.
HMO, PPO. Depending on how many doctors, what type of doctor, and where your doctors are, you’ll want to choose an insurance type that works for you. HMOs are typically more expensive than PPOs, but they may come with more restrictions.
If this is your first time to purchase health insurance through the ACA marketplace, take a look at these tips from Forbes on navigating the process:
- Start window-shopping now at Healthcare.gov. Put in your zip code and scroll through the plans. Read about costs and click to compare multiple options.
- Consider working with a health insurance broker.If you have questions, this is the best option to go with. The intricacies of the ACA and the health insurance industry can be too much to handle without an expert’s insight.
- Avoid owing the now-much-steeper penalty for not having health insurance. One of the biggest components to the ACA is the fine associated with not having insurance. In 2015 the penalty is tripling.
Once you have everything decided, purchase your plan by Monday, Dec. 15 for your coverage to begin Jan. 1, 2015.