4 things you need to know about open enrollment for 2019

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It’s that time again: Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act Marketplace starts November 1 and runs through December 15 for most states. We as a nation spend nearly 18% of our wealth on health care, according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

That’s double what any other country spends.  Clearly, health care has been a tough one for us to figure out! I have radical ideas about how I would want to provide health care going forward. But right now, we are in open enrollment for health plans for 2019 and that’s what we need to focus on.

It’s open enrollment season: Here’s 4 things to know

The average cost on the Obamacare exchanges looks like it is going to go down on average about 1.5% for the 39 states participating in the marketplace. In states that run their own marketplaces, the costs will also dip a bit. But some cities and states in particular will see increases. In North Dakota, for one, rates will jump 21%, according to CNN.

Now that open enrollment season is here, I want to outline some key things you need to know about health care going into 2019.

4 things to know about open enrollment for 2019 health insurance plans

Pay attention to the color codes

Most individuals buying their own coverage by color codes wind up buying silver on the health care exchanges. The benchmark silver plan on average is expected to decrease. The average monthly premium will go from $412 to $405 for 2019, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services.

If you go and shop either on your state’s health care exchange or off it, you may find another silver plan for next year that costs less than what you pay now. But know that just doing a renewal and keeping doing what you’re doing could cost you money.

Meanwhile, the bronze and gold plans are staying flat on average, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The most important caveat when you’re shopping is to pay close attention to the doctors who you are allowed to see. Ditto with the facilities. You want to be sure you have access to what you want at the lowest premium possible.

Small businesses need to shop around

For small businesses, there are huge differences in the cost of similar coverage from one carrier to another. If you use a health insurance broker, you need to shop that coverage. One good thing about 2019 is that small business owners will now have the opportunity to join forces for cheaper health care plans.

Depending on your respective state’s insurance laws, small businesses and sole proprietors will be able to form association health plans (AHPs).


Short-time health plans have expanded

Due to a policy change by the federal government, there are more short-time health insurance plans available for 2019. That means short-term plans that will cover you up to 364 days and can be renewed by your insurer for up to three years.

The flip side of that is although short-term health plans will have lower premiums, they will exclude people with pre-existing conditions, something that has been a sticking point in Washington.

You won’t be penalized for not having coverage

Starting with the 2019 health plans, people who choose not to have health coverage won’t have to pay a fine. That’s because the government got rid of the Shared Responsibility Payment, which has proven to be a controversial hallmark of earlier years of the Affordable Care Act.

Still, employers are benefiting from the fact that medical cost inflation has moderated. At the same time, they’re increasing the amount out of pocket you pay.[ But employers are *not* the bad guy, in my view. As a practical matter, they don’t have to provide health care; it would be cheaper for them to pay the fines under the Affordable Care Act for not doing so.  They choose to provide health care benefits to attract a strong talent pool. At many employers, there will be only high deductible plans when you go to renew.

Want more money-saving advice? Visit our Health & Health Care section!

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