Open Enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) healthcare marketplace started Nov. 1 and will end December 15 in most states including Maryland. Coverage under these plans will begin January 1, 2018. Medical Assistance/Medicaid enrollment, however, may be completed any time throughout the year.
For those who do not have health insurance through an employer, are unemployed, or self-employed, health care selections need to be made in the next few weeks. And, any individuals opting out of securing health coverage may incur a fine. The 2017 minimum penalty for not having health insurance is $695 per adult plus $347.50 per child, or 2.5% of annual household income above the federal filing threshold, whichever is greater. The penalty for 2018 has not yet been announced.
Congressional efforts to repeal Obamacare this past summer along with the Trump Administration’s changes to the program caused uncertainty within the healthcare insurance industry as well as confusion among the public. Last month the Trump Administration blocked further reimbursed payments to insurance companies paying subsidies on behalf of lower-income Obamacare participants. However, at this point, the law is still in effect, and insurance companies are required to provide subsidized coverage to lower income citizens. In response, the Maryland insurance regulators approved emergency increases in premiums for Silver Plan participants who do not qualify for the subsidy.
The uncertainty and confusion have made it more complicated to find the best health care plan, and this year there will be less time to make a choice (45 days this year, compared to 90 days in previous years). Those seeking first-time health insurance coverage or those returning for coverage need to start investigating their options now.
Researching all the options is advised since there have been many changes due to the uncertainty of health care insurance. Last year 8 out of 10 people qualified for financial help, with many applicants finding premiums of $50-100 per month. Depending on family income and family size, some very inexpensive plans are available for 2018 according to Lisa Skipper at Mountain Laurel Medical Center. Some people have been able to increase their coverage to a Silver or Gold Plan rather than a Bronze Plan.
The cost of insurance is less expensive for young adults but increases with age. For those who do not qualify for government assistance with health care premiums, buying insurance outside the Obamacare marketplace may be the better option. Premiums for those who do not qualify for government aid are increasing in most states including Maryland, but areas of nearby West Virginia and Pennsylvania expect to see a decrease in premiums. Other parts of West Virginia anticipate increased cost for the consumer. When seeking health insurance coverage, keep in mind the following:
1) For those who do not qualify for a government subsidy, shopping for insurance outside the exchange may be the best option over an Obamacare Silver Plan.
2) Consider getting professional advice from a Certified Maryland Health Connections Navigator before signing up for your 2018 health care insurance. Navigators will become very busy as the December 15 deadline approaches so calling early in the cycle is recommended.
Enroll directly online or by phone: Enroll online: www.MarylandHealthConnection.gov Enroll by phone: 855-642-8572
For more information by phone or to schedule an appointment with a certified Maryland Health Connection Navigator, contact any of the following:
Western Maryland Health Insurance Connector Navigator
301-501-5700 or 888-202-0212.
Online at www.wmdhealthconnect.org
Healthy Families at the Garrett County Health Department
1025 Memorial Drive
28 Hershberger Lane
301-895-5699, ext. 201
Mountain Laurel Medical Center
You do not need to be a patient of Mountain Laurel, and this service is free.
1027 Memorial Drive
104 Parkview Drive
According to the Maryland Health Connection the following is required when applying for coverage: 1. Birth dates for each household member applying for coverage. 2. Social Security numbers or document numbers for each household member applying for coverage, if they have an SSN or other document number. 3. Employer and income information for everyone in your household. (including pay stubs, W-2 forms or tax forms) 4. Citizenship or immigration information for anyone applying for coverage. 5. Information about any job-related health insurance available to your household.