First the worry was IF you’d be able to sign up for coverage at the flawed healthcare.gov. Now your concern should be HOW you sign up. Yes, after many red faces and delayed deadlines, the Obama administration was able to announce that the system met its goal of getting 7 million new people to sign up.
That may well encourage more people to give it a whirl during future enrollment periods – and if you do – I want you to sidestep common blunders that can be a pain in the neck when you’re trying to go see a doctor about the… pain in your neck.
I asked the IIABA – Association of Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America – for advice on choosing well. Independent agents help clients choose among lots of different insurance companies, so they’re accustomed to comparing and contrasting different plans.
“All the recent focus has been on the difficulties in signing up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act,” said Bob Rusbuldt, President and CEO of IIABA. “But the even harder part is trying to sign up for the right coverage.” Here are the top three mistakes according to the in-the-trenches experts at the IIABA.
1. Not understanding your deductible. Affordable Care Act bronze plans can have as much as a $5,000 deductible. That’s the amount you have to pay out of pocket before the plan starts paying for your care. Usually a higher deductible means lower monthly premiums, so if you use very little healthcare and coming up with $5,000 is not a hardship for you, then this could be a good choice. But if you know you need lots of care and/or you have cash flow problems, then a plan with a lower deductible might be better for you. The IIABA says, “consider a silver plan instead. It may seem more expensive on the surface, but once the out-of-pocket expenses are factored in, it may be a better deal for you.”
2. Not looking beyond deductibles and co-pays. It’s important to consider other factors beyond just cost when you choose your Affordable Care Act plan. In some instances, insurance companies were able to create lower cost healthcare programs by excluding some hospital systems you might like or prescriptions that you take. “Look beyond the top line numbers and see if your doc and hospital are participating, or you might be in for a surprise,” said Rusbuldt.
3. Not following up or confirming. There have been many reports of “back end” issues for enrollments through the exchanges, where the insurers are receiving incomplete, duplicate and/or corrupted files from the government sites. Worst-case scenario, you could have a health problem, think you’re covered, but then find out you’re not when you go to the doctor or pharmacy. Close the loop and confirm your coverage before you have a problem.
If you’re uncertain about making the right choices when you sign up for one of the new healthcare plans, expert help is available. Local communities have trained thousands of people to guide folks through the process, and you can access their assistance here.
You can also consult an insurance agent – look for one who has been certified for the healthcare Marketplace – to help you not only choose a plan but also look for any assistance that may be available to you in paying for that plan. Your insurance premiums will be the same whether you get an agent’s help or not, so it’s a win-win.