If you’re under 65 years old and don’t receive health insurance through an employer, you have until Jan. 31 to get covered. Still have questions? You’re not alone. Below are answers to some common last-minute enrollment questions.
1. I feel like if I try to enroll now, I’ll just be rushed. Isn’t it really too late?
Unless it’s past the Jan. 31 deadline, it’s not too late. If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of shopping for coverage, there are plenty of local opportunities to get help. Call one of our health plan advisors at 888-899-2968 or connect with an agent. Their job is to help you find a plan that meets your unique health needs at a price you can afford. They’ll help you check if you’re eligible for financial assistance, and walk you through the enrollment process to make it easy and stress-free.
2. What will happen if I just decide to go without health insurance this year?
If you’re uninsured, it’s time to get covered. If you don’t, you could pay a penalty fee. If you don’t have coverage in 2016, you’ll pay 2.5% of your yearly household income or $695, whichever is higher. This means if you make $50,000 per year, your penalty would be more than $1,200 at tax time. A recent Citi Research report projects millions of Americans will be able to purchase health insurance this year for less than the penalty for not having insurance.
Aside from the penalty, there are lots of other reasons to get covered. Health insurance protects us from these high and often unexpected costs. What’s more, insurance plans now include benefits to help us stay healthy, preventing these costs in the first place. Uninsured individuals need to make sure they consider all their options before paying the tax penalty – essentially paying to have nothing.
3. Is it too late for me to still get financial help paying for a plan?
Not at all. As long as you’re eligible, financial assistance will be available as long as you enroll by the Jan. 31 deadline. Eligibility depends on your household income, family size and where you live. Nearly 80 percent of Marketplace enrollees received financial assistance last year. To give an example, a family of four making almost $97,000 per year or a single person making $47,000 per year could potentially receive a subsidy toward the cost of buying health insurance. Consumers can get estimate their subsidy amount when shopping for health plans on bcbsm.com/subsidy.
4. If I enroll now, when does my new health insurance plan start?
If you enroll by Jan. 15, your coverage will begin on Feb. 1. If you enroll between Jan. 15 and Jan. 31, your coverage will begin March 1. Once the Jan. 31 deadline has passed, you’ll have to wait until next year to get covered.
Just like Christmas shopping, the longer you wait to shop for health insurance, the longer you’ll likely wait in line. Last year there were extremely high call volumes during the last two weeks of open enrollment. As the Jan. 31 deadline approaches, you can expect to spend more time on the phone enrolling for coverage.
5. The whole process is stressing. What advice do you have to make it easier when I’m choosing a plan?
Two words: get help. Health insurance is confusing, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Blue Cross has multiple walk-in center locations statewide, 150 health plan advisors, and 5,000 agents ready to help you understand your options and enroll. Health plan advisors can be reached at 888-899-2968 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.
Before you call, it helps to gather the following information:
• Number of dependents
• Social security numbers (or document number for legal immigrants)
• Employer and income information
• Current health plan and policy numbers
Also, think about how you use health insurance. Make a list of what health care services you used last year, including any prescriptions you and your family need filled on a monthly basis. Do you or anyone in your family have a chronic condition? How often do you and your family see the doctor? What’s your preferred doctor or hospital affiliation? These are all good things to consider when determining what plan will best fit your needs.
Rick Notter is the director of Individual Business Marketing and Distribution at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more tips on showing your health the same kind of love you show your vehicle, visit MIBluesPerspectives.com.