6 things to know before the December 15 Obamacare open enrollment deadline

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2019 health care open enrollment deadline
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Have you signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace yet?

Open enrollment is soon coming to a close, with the deadline to sign up in many states just days away.

RELATED: Don’t make this big mistake when you’re shopping your prescriptions

What you need to know before signing up for a 2019 health plan

The Affordable Health Care Act’s online marketplace is up and running, but you probably aren’t hearing a lot about it.

That’s because fiscal belt-tightening has cut into the marketing plan for this Obamacare-era health market.

Yet you still have a chance to sign up before the deadline arrives. So here’s what you need to know about potential pitfalls and opportunities before you do that…

Where do I go to sign up for coverage?  

The official government health care website, Healthcare.gov, is where you need to go.

When is the deadline to sign up?

Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act Marketplace began on November 1 and runs through Saturday, December 15 in most states.

The color-coded plans are still required to cover pre-existing conditions

As you probably know, there are three main tiers of plans on Healthcare.gov: Bronze, silver and gold.

All bronze, silver and gold plans sold on Healthcare.gov are compliant with the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which means they must offer coverage for pre-existing conditions.

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Despite the controversial nature of Obamacare, coverage for pre-existing conditions is something that plays well in both red states and blue states!

Silver is the most popular plan on the exchange. According to CNN, the average monthly premium on a silver plan will go from $412 last year down to $405 for 2019.

Beware of cheaper non-complaint plans

One pitfall to be aware of when signing up for health insurance at Healthcare.gov is that you may see some plans being offered that have radically lower premiums.

These are what are called “non-compliant plans.”

These cheaper plans that tend to be half the cost per month, but they usually will require that you pass medical underwriting. Medical underwriting is a process where the insurer tries to figure out whether or not to offer coverage to you, at what cost and with what limits.

With these cheaper non-compliant plans, the insurance company can reject you based on the ground of pre-existing conditions or even if they determine that they just don’t like your health profile.

“So you may see a plan and wonder why this one is $474 a month and this one $251 a month, or whatever it may be,” money expert Clark Howard says of these “insurance lite” plans. “Potentially, the difference is the cheaper one is non-compliant.”

“Usually you’ll know it’s a non-compliant plan if they make you do a medical questionnaire,” the consumer champ says.

So if you’re asked to fill out any health history, know right away that it’s almost certainly a non-compliant plan.

No coverage? Don’t worry – there are no more fines anymore

The Shared Responsibility Payment (aka the mandate part of the health care mandate) will be going the way of the dodo beginning with the 2019 health plans.

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So while it’s always advisable to have health insurance, you won’t have to pay this fine that was one of the more controversial elements of Obamacare any longer.

Faith-based co-ops may offer an alternative

Is the coverage on the Obamacare exchanges too expensive for you?

Faith-based ministries like Medi-Share and Christian Healthcare Ministries have become a popular alternative to ACA health plans for some people because of the cost advantage.

As their name suggests, health care sharing ministries all you to share the cost of your health care with others in accordance with Biblical scripture.

If you’re going to explore one of these options, you’ll want to go into it with eyes wide open. Here are some of the questions you should ask:

  • Does the policy have exclusions? If so, what are they?
  • What level of coverage is offered for pre-existing conditions, if any?
  • How will disputes be handled should they arise?

You can read more about health care sharing ministries here.

More insurance stories on Clark.com 

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