Paying closer attention to their finances and to their health will top the New Year’s resolutions list for many Americans this coming year – and what better way to accomplish both but to sign up for health insurance. Open Enrollment for health insurance lasts until February 15, 2015 and enrolling will not only provide coverage for you and your family, but if you are eligible for a subsidy, you will save money on that coverage, not to mention avoid the financial penalties that come from opting out of having health insurance coverage.
As a telesales representative at Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Nevada, every day I talk to about 40 people who are evaluating their insurance options and seeking answers to their questions. I get to listen to and help prospective members understand what health insurance plans will meet their health and financial needs. After more than 15 years in the field, I still find this experience incredibly rewarding. For many callers, this is the first time they are exploring their health insurance options and I get to explain that purchasing health insurance is an important way to protect them and their families in the event of injury or illness. It is essential to protect your financial future, as injury and illnesses can be costly without insurance. For instance, did you know that fixing a broken leg can cost up to $7,500 – that could be a year’s worth of rent!
Coming through loud and clear to me this year is the fact that many people are confused about cost sharing and subsidies. In fact, most Americans can dramatically reduce monthly premiums and costs, but are confused about their options.
Here’s a quick look at the different types of subsidies that could help you save in 2015.
1. Premium Tax Credits: The health care law provides a new tax credit to help you afford health coverage when you purchase a health plan through the Marketplace. If you qualify, you have two options for payment plans. One option is to receive the credit in advance to help pay for monthly premiums. The other is to apply this credit when you fill out your tax return. You can learn more at http://www.nevadahealthlink.com.
2. Cost Sharing Reduction subsidies: The federal cost-sharing subsidies essentially reduce your out-of-pocket costs; the payments you make for doctor’s visits, lab tests, drugs, etc. The size of the subsidy will depend on your household size and income and is only applicable to those who purchase Silver-level plans in the Marketplace.
3. Medicaid and CHIP: When you apply for health coverage in the Marketplace, you or some members of your household could be eligible for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This will again depend on your household size and income, and on whether your state is expanding its Medicaid program to cover more people.
It’s important to remember that you are not alone in this process and that there are resources available to help answer any questions you may have. Talk to people like me, agents, brokers, community members and more to get the information you need.
The best calls for me are when people start the conversation feeling confused about the enrollment process or costs, and by the end I have a new member who feels satisfied that they are getting an affordable, private health insurance plan for their family and loved ones. Getting the right plan that meets your health and financial needs is what open enrollment is all about; take action before February 15.
Joshua Moeddel is a telesales representative for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Nevada.