If you’re new to buying healthcare, finding the perfect plan can be like trying to find the Wizard without having a yellow brick road to guide you to the Emerald City. While it might seem overwhelming, the changes made to the healthcare system by the Affordable Care Act aim to make finding a plan that suits your needs a simpler process.
Whether you are transitioning from your parents’ insurance, are in a job that does not offer healthcare benefits, or are simply uninsured, you will now have another option for healthcare coverage. When open enrollment begins on October 1st, you will be able to compare plans and purchase health insurance online through a “marketplace” in your state. The marketplace is a central location where you can shop for plans offered in your area. The cost of these plans will be clear and finding out what you qualify for will be as simple as filling out just one application. Since not having health insurance could cost you money in 2014 through new taxes, it is important that you apply to the marketplace if you cannot get insurance through your employer or enroll in an individual plan.
The new healthcare.gov website is your yellow brick road to finding a healthcare plan that meets your needs. However, before you start skipping and singing “I’m off to see the Wizard,” there are a few things you should do to prepare for enrollment, especially if you are looking to buy health insurance for the first time or you aren’t very familiar with the ins and outs of the health care system.
Learn the Language
When you begin shopping for a plan, you will need to be familiar with words like “deductible,” “copayment,” “premium,” and countless others. These terms are commonplace in the health insurance industry, and as a smart consumer you should ensure that you know exactly what they mean. Check out the glossary of terms on Healthcare.gov for easy to understand definitions that will give you the knowledge you need to make an informed decision about your healthcare.
Know Your Rights
The healthcare reform puts a renewed emphasis on patient rights and includes new patient protections that will go completely into effect in 2014. For instance, under the ACA insurance companies can no longer deny you coverage because of a preexisting condition. For a complete list of your rights under the ACA please see the Patient Bill of Rights.
Meet the Wizard
Most of the information you need can be found at healthcare.gov. This is the official website for the healthcare reform and is designed to be user-friendly and interactive. You can visit the site now and complete an initial questionnaire that will tell you what you might qualify for come October, including if you could be eligible for Medicare, Medicaid or CHIP.
When open enrollment begins on October 1st you will be able to log onto the marketplace and complete just one application to apply for coverage through the marketplace. Like the Wizard pulling levers behind the curtain, the marketplace in your state will tell you what you qualify for based on the information you provide. When you apply to the marketplace you will also find out if you qualify for a federal program like Medicare, Medicaid or CHIP, or if you are eligible for financial assistance, such as a lower monthly premium. Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP are still offered through the state in which you live and are separate from the marketplace. If you enroll or remain enrolled in one of these programs you will not complete the health insurance enrollment process through the marketplace site.
If you’re not comfortable using computers, there is also a toll-free number available for you to call to ask general healthcare questions. By the time open enrollment begins in October, there will also be trained healthcare experts, known as “navigators,” available in your area to answer all of your questions and assist you with comparing plans and completing applications.
It’s time to see the Wizard. Don’t wait! Following the yellow brick road is as easy as logging on to healthcare.gov, gathering information about your options, filling out a single application when enrollment begins in October, and finally choosing a plan that meets your needs. We also have posted our own webpages on the Affordable Care Act, the Healthcare Marketplace, and Federal programs that will help you learn more and guide you to the right places on healthcare.gov.