Take advantage of help enrolling in health insurance

family-insurance-1316543_1280By Tamera Manzanares

Finding health insurance can be confusing and complex, but you don’t have to tackle it alone. Free, in person assistance is available to help you explore your options and find the right plan. The insurance marketplace, where many people will need to get or renew their health insurance for 2017, is not open long; you need to enroll by Dec. 15 to be covered at the beginning of New Year.

What is open enrollment and the health insurance marketplace?
The Affordable Care Act requires everyone have health insurance. The insurance marketplace in Colorado is Connect for Health Colorado. If you do not have health insurance through your employer or public insurance (Medicaid or Child Health Plan Plus) you need to get covered through the health insurance marketplace by Jan. 31, 2017.

What happens if I don’t get health insurance?
If you go three months or more without coverage you will face tax penalties – $695 per adult or 2.5 percent of income, whichever is more. A person making $50,000 per year, for example, would pay $1,250. There may be additional fines for children. Certain hardships or life change events may qualify you for reduced tax penalties and/or allow you to enroll in a plan outside open enrollment.

Does the recent election affect current health insurance requirements and benefits?  There is no change in the law providing financial assistance to qualifying individuals and families or the tax penalty for individuals who have a three months or more lapse in coverage. Customers should continue to shop for the best coverage for themselves and their families in 2017 and complete their enrollment by Dec. 15, 2016, to avoid a gap in coverage.

What type of financial help is available?
Some people may qualify for Medicaid or Child Health Plan Plus. In Colorado, Medicaid provides health coverage for some low-income individuals, families, children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with disabilities. CHP+ is health coverage for pregnant women and children in families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. If you do not qualify for these programs you may be eligible for tax credits to help offset the monthly cost of premiums.

What will insurance plans cover?
All plans cover important services like doctor visits, hospitalizations, prescriptions, maternity and infant care and mental health care. Many preventative services, such as immunizations, colon cancer screenings, mammograms and Pap tests are covered at no cost. Doctor visits and other services may involve out-of-pocket costs such as co-pays (a set amount you pay for a healthcare visit), deductible (the amount you pay each policy period for some services before your insurance kicks in) and coinsurance (the portion of health care costs you pay once you’ve met your deductible).

Will I pay more for a plan in 2017?
Health insurance premiums have increased in our area. However, premium tax credits also have increased, as well as the income threshold for qualifying for tax credits.

What if I’m already enrolled in health insurance?
If you have health insurance through the health insurance marketplace you should have received a letter from your health insurance carrier with information about renewing your plan. It’s always a good idea to review your options to make sure you have the best plan for your circumstances. Some plans may no longer be available.

How do I enroll?
Health Coverage Guides will walk you through your options. Insurance brokers also can advise you. Health Coverage Guides are available at Northwest Colorado Health – call 970-871-7330 – and Yampa Valley Medical Center – call 970-879-1322. Drop in enrollment events are 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Jan. 25 at Yampa Valley Medical Center, 1024 Central Park Drive. For assistance in Craig, call 970-871-7324.  

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