Open enrollment to sign up for health insurance starts on November 1 and runs through December 15 this year, allowing you just 45 days to decide on a plan and commit to your coverage for 2018. With all of the political hubbub surrounding healthcare reform, you might be asking if you even need coverage. The short answer is yes. Here are four good reasons to get covered for next year.
- The mandate is still in effect.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandate is still in effect for 2017 requiring everyone to carry some form of qualifying health insurance. Penalties for those who don’t comply with the law are higher this year, set at 2.5 percent of your taxable household income or a flat fee, whichever is greater. There is a chance that the IRS will not enforce the penalty, but this is far from being decided. In fact, the IRS has explicitly said that it will hold taxpayers accountable for having health insurance.
- Most people qualify for cost assistance.
Currently, financial assistance for premiums and other medical costs are still available. Around 87 percent of exchange customers last year qualified for cost assistance, making premiums more affordable for most people who enrolled in Obamacare plans. If you’re not sure about buying health insurance because of the cost, know that you might be able to reduce your premiums as well as the amount that you have to spend out of pocket. New for 2018, customers can buy health insurance and apply for cost assistance using brokers instead of HealthCare.gov, so start here if you need guidance on how to get covered.
- Coverage is still guaranteed-issue for all applicants.
Nothing has changed about the fact that under Obamacare, everyone who applies for health insurance can get it as long as they pay their premiums. Previous and current health problems don’t affect your ability to enroll, nor will they cost you more money in premiums under the current law. Whether you have a chronic condition, like high blood pressure, or a temporary and expensive one, like pregnancy, your premium rate will be set on factors other than health status (like age, where you live and plan availability). Take advantage of the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions to ensure that you and your loved ones are covered for 2018.
- You may have to pay a penalty in the future if you skip this year.
In 2018, health insurance companies can require previous customers to pay back any unpaid premiums that they may have skipped if they lost or dropped coverage voluntarily in a prior year. How far insurers will take this remains to be seen, but signing up this year – and keeping your premiums current – ensures that you won’t have any extra fees to deal with when you re-enroll or try to find a new plan with the same company. As of right now, there are no additional penalties to worry about in the coming year other than the one that you’ll face if you don’t have coverage at all.
With a little less than two months left until open enrollment starts in November, it’s time to think about your coverage options for 2018. Discuss your needs with your doctor and, if applicable, your family, and jot down the kind of coverage that you need and want. All ACA-compliant plans – which are any major medical plans sold on or off the marketplace after March 23, 2010 – cover a host of essential health benefits and include protections for consumers.
Don’t gamble with your health coverage if you don’t have to. A single catastrophic health issue affects more than the person who becomes ill or injured. It burdens the entire family emotionally and financially. While the future of healthcare reform is murky, the current law still stands. You will need health insurance to avoid a fine and ensure that you’re protected in case of emergencies. Stay ahead of the process by keeping an eye on healthcare news in the upcoming months, and get covered starting in November.