Health care: How to avoid Obamacare sticker shock
Steep increases in Obamacare premiums have many Americans wondering whether they can keep their health plan affordable, said Ann Carrns in The New York Times. But you may be eligible for “more financial help than you think.” Open enrollment for 2017 began last week, and premiums for insurance plans on Health Care.gov, the federal marketplace, rose by an average of 25 percent. Yet relatively few people should see their own premiums climb so steeply, because 85 percent of those insured through the marketplace are eligible for tax credits and financial assistance. And because the subsidies and credits are adjusted according to average premiums, when premiums go up, so do credits. That means “some people may be eligible for assistance next year even if they weren’t this year.”
It’s important to shop around even if your policy automatically renews, said Kimberly Lankford in Kiplinger.com. “Other plans may now be a better deal for you, especially if your health-care needs have changed.” You’ll want to make sure that your preferred doctors and any prescription drugs you need will continue to be covered. You’ll also want to update your income information with the marketplace, for a better sense of what assistance you can get. “Even if your income remains the same as last year, your subsidy may be different if the cost of coverage in your area has changed.”
“Pay attention to timing,” said Michelle Andrews in Money.com. Enrollment is open until Jan. 31, but to have coverage that begins Jan. 1, you must pick your plan by Dec. 15. A little extra digging when you shop may also turn up some pleasant surprises. In a number of cases, coverage may be “more generous than it appears.” More plans next year are offering coverage for certain services, such as primary-care doctor visits and generic drugs, “before the deductible is satisfied”— meaning you’ll just be on the hook for a copayment.
Don’t get too hung up on the dollar figure attached to your monthly premium, said Magaly Olivero in USNews.com. More often, it’s out-of-pocket expenses like coinsurance and copayments that “can turn what at first appears to be an affordable plan into a financial burden.” Take the time to calculate what those costs might be for the plans you are considering, based on how often you expect to access care. A plan with a lower premium, for instance, might come with a 20 percent coinsurance rate, meaning you must pay 20 percent of the cost of any office or hospital visit. That can add up quickly, and “saddle you with bills you weren’t expecting.”