After a long and challenging year, it’s finally becoming easier to look ahead to the future with hope. The economy recently added almost a million jobs and the states are pouring immense efforts into their vaccination programs.
However, there remain many people all around the country facing dire straits. One sign that Americans still need help is the Biden administration’s recent action over the Affordable Care Act. Working quickly, President Biden inaugurated an extra open enrollment period that began back in February. During this time, more than 500,000 individuals have started a new health insurance policy.
Enrollment through Healthcare.gov has reached a record high few were anticipating. In fact, 2-3 times more people have started their ACA healthcare coverage compared to the open enrollment periods in 2019 and 2020.
Experts have estimated up to a million more people may join an ACA marketplace health insurance plan by the end of April, while the open enrollment period will continue through August 15. Enrollment has surged among diverse constituencies, including low-income households from coast to coast. All this is very good news for Americans who recently lost employer-based health insurance due to COVID-19.
In past years, the open enrollment period for ACA healthcare plans has often come and gone with little fanfare. Indeed, the budget used to advertise and inform the public about the ACA open enrollment period was modified under the Trump administration. And, due to lack of research, some Americans even believed the ACA had been repealed. But the ACA remains, and all indications are that it is here to stay.
The old mantra of “Repeal and Replace” has faded into the rear-view mirror as improving the Affordable Care Act becomes a central priority for President Biden. But if you are a business owner, entrepreneur, or 1099 contractor, you should think carefully about your options during this open enrollment period.
Open Enrollment Isn’t Right For Everyone: Here’s What You Need To Know
Although open enrollment is an exciting time for some, not everyone gets health insurance they really want.
It’s important to remember that, although the ACA marketplace has returned with new gusto, there are still no penalties for not holding a health insurance policy. You do not need to choose a plan during open enrollment to avoid a fee on Tax Day. And open enrollment will come again during its typical window at the end of the year. In fact, the standard open enrollment dates during the fourth quarter are likely to be extended, too.
Why does this matter? Simply, you should not assume a “metal tier” health insurance plan you can get during open enrollment is the best option for you. Many independently employed professionals and business leaders have learned that Affordable Care Act open enrollment does not meet their needs for health insurance.
Imagine this scenario:
You choose a plan on the Affordable Care Act marketplace during open enrollment. Afterward, you simply go about your business. The policy appears sound and you have access to healthcare from a local doctor you trust. Everything seems to be working out exactly as intended. But then, without any warning, things start to change.
Maybe you start to do a brisk trade as the economy bounces back. Maybe things fall into place and you have the best quarter of your career. Whatever the case, you have now exceeded the income limit for your ACA healthcare subsidy. The government starts counting: Hundreds or even thousands of dollars for you to repay.
Americans with variable income levels have run into this problem time and time again, leading to crisis on Tax Day. Since they are not given any notification when the problem actually arises, many people have found their success and prosperity “rolled back” when they have to pay far more in taxes than they expected.
And what about the quality of ACA marketplace healthcare plans?
“Metal tier” healthcare plans are supposed to make it easy to compare coverage, including when you need to look at multiple health insurance providers. And they are not without some merit – for example, the ACA prohibits discrimination on the basis of pre-existing conditions, which is helpful to many people.
Because ACA healthcare plans are intended to be broadly applicable to as many Americans as possible, they do not suit everybody. You can still find yourself paying for more insurance than you need or for insurance that does not fit your expectations in other ways. And, in the end, you can end up overpaying.
The alternative to open enrollment? Choosing a plan for you with help from a health insurance broker.
A Local Health Insurance Broker Is Your Best Ally During Open Enrollment
Many Americans do not even realize they have the power to look beyond open enrollment for health insurance. Their relationship with a local health insurance broker gives them that power.
A health insurance broker is an independent insurance professional who does deep research on insurance options aligned with the needs of clients like you. It is crucial to choose a local health insurance broker because he or she will have strong relationships with the health insurance firms that operate in your area. Most individual brokers work within a team so they can help people as efficiently as possible.
Although a local health insurance broker needs to know all the options well, that does not mean your broker is “locked-in” with specific companies. A trusted health insurance broker will only recommend a plan that truly matches your requirements. Once you decide, your broker can help you get coverage at a reduced rate.
A health insurance broker works with a variety of different organizations that offer health insurance policies, like private insurance firms, unions, and others. Despite this, they maintain their independence so they can represent your interests exclusively. That’s true no matter what your needs are.
And, yes – if an ACA marketplace plan is right for you, a local health insurance broker can help you select one. That means learning about your specific healthcare needs, goals, and budget and helping you pick the right policy. No matter where your health insurance comes from, your success is the main goal.
Compare that to talking with an insurance agent employed by a health insurance company that simply wants new customers at any cost. There is no way to know if you’re getting complete and accurate information from a health insurance agent. On the other hand, a local health insurance broker is on your side every time.
Choice Health Insurance Brokers Will Help You Make Sense Of Your Options
Open enrollment is the perfect time to consider your health insurance needs for the coming year, but don’t let the open enrollment deadline push you into a decision you may regret. With Choice Health Insurance Brokers, you have the opportunity to start a health insurance plan attuned to your lifestyle at any time of year.
Contact the team at Choice today and get the information you need to make an informed decision.