2019 Open Enrollment is almost here and many clients and friends are getting notices that their plans are changing or their premiums are increasing. On November 1st, 2018 we'll be able to get a view of the universe of health options we'll have for 2019. While many clients will stay with their current plan, they will certainly see an increase in premiums and also in their deductibles or out of pocket maximums again. The annual bump in costs and reductions in benefits are now the norm for most people and we are constantly scouring the landscape for new options.
If "The Day the Music Died" as sung by Don McLean was when Buddy Holly crashed in a chartered airplane in 1959, we will be able to sing about a similar death of your health insurance that started in January of 2016. Unfortunately, our healthcare system's death isn't one that will suddenly end in just one terrible event, our system's death will probably last several long and painful years. The beginning of the end can be marked by Blue Cross Blue Shield's decision to terminate all PPO coverage for individual plans in Texas and replace it with a managed care HMO network. Competitors of Blue Cross quickly followed suit, leaving Texans grasping at straws and hoping to find anything that could cover them with a large doctor and hospital network. Unfortunately, many still don't understand how limited options are and won't until they need emergency health care.
Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act we've been writing that the law did nothing to control health care costs and thus was a waste of time and truthfully an effort to take people's money and subsidize others. Oddly, things would have been better if the country would have simply offered free coverage to the poor rather than destroying the system that was actually working for many. Now, we have a health insurance system that is offering small networks, higher deductibles, lower material benefits, and premiums that are almost 200% greater than just a few short years ago. The worst part is that the pain is not over. 2017 will usher in a new set of significant actions that will further reduce choice, cost more, and result in an actual reduction in the number of insureds.
We're right on the cusp of the 2016 Open Enrollment Period that begins November 1st and we've received hundreds of calls from clients that found shocking news from Blue Cross, Humana, and even United Health stating that their plans are being terminated and they are being moved to an HMO plan! While many of us are in disbelief, the truth is that all carriers in the Houston market and many other Texas markets won't have an available PPO plan offered by the major carriers. In the vacuum left by these terminating PPO plans we'll need to examine the HMO network plan design. While this process can be hard to understand, don't worry, we're here to assist you through this search.
April 30th will mark the end of the last Special Election Period that allowed citizens to extend the time to purchase health insurance in 2015. This specific election period was approved by CMS and made available to people that never bought health insurance in 2014 and discovered that they would owe a penalty for the 2014 tax year.
I Just Bought A Plan I Could Afford!
I have had several conversations in the last few weeks with clients of other agents or purchasers of health insurance plans that dealt directly with the carrier that needed help. In each instance the person lamented that they purchased a health plan based on the price and they didn't take much time to consider other important items in the plan like physician networks, deductibles, or co-pays.
In a world where you are told that procrastination is terrible and there are bad life consequences for missing deadlines, CMS, our government health administrator, has decreed that folks that waited past the deadline to purchase health insurance for 2015 will get one more shot at signing up!
I wanted to highlight several key developments this week as clients and new friends are finding that they haven't fully understood the implications of the financial subsidies they received from the Marketplace and Obamacare. Over the last few days we've heard from clients that have received 1095-A Forms which show how much they received in subsidies from the US Government and they are now wonder what they need to do with their forms and what they mean.
Technical difficulties plagued the healthcare.gov signup process over the last few days of Open Enrollment. As a result of these problems, CMS, the government body that oversees the Affordable Care Act, has extended the Open Enrollment deadline to February 22nd. Remember, if you don't obtain coverage that begins 3/1/15, you cannot purchase health insurance this year unless you qualify for the Special Election period (have a baby, get a divorce, or have some other qualifying life change event). If you miss out on this last chance, you'll be locked out and won't be able to purchase an ACA plan in 2015. Make sure to grab this last opportunity to buy coverage.
With only 4 days left in the 2015 Open Enrollment cycle the pace of calls into our offices has increased dramatically. New clients and old friends that have never emailed or called us back suddenly want to talk about health insurance! In order to help you in the final stressful days we wanted to provide you some key pieces of information to help you get your enrollment completed and finish this Open Enrollment marathon!
Call volumes are increasing as we get to the last few days of the 2015 Open Enrollment season. I wanted to provide a few answers to questions we are receiving and wanted to put them in one post. Can you believe that January is already in the rear view mirror? We've had several great calls this week and all of them have common themes. I spoke quite a bit about taxation and the impact changes of income will have on subsidies in last week's post. If you have questions about these items, please refer to Taxing Questions for 2015. Let's dive in!