Good Advice From  Insurance Broker Sarah Smith

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Open enrollment for 2018 health insurance begins November 1st. As I write this on October 20th, the U.S. Congress recently struck a deal with the White House to approve subsidies to health insurers, which in turn helps stabilize health premiums. 2018 rates are expected to be very close to 2017 rates, and in some cases, you may have a slight reduction.
Last year, the Minnesota legislators approved rebates of ~25% for those of you who did not qualify for a MnSure low income subsidy. That rebate will be expiring December 31st. At present, I’ve not heard if Minnesota plans to renew the program.

If you have a bronze plan (the most affordable offered) and you like your current doctors, you’re probably best to keep that same plan in 2018.

OUT-OF-POCKET (OOP) LIMITS FOR 2018

OOP is the most you can be on the hook to pay, above and beyond your monthly premium. These limits are up $200 over last year.

  • OOP max for individuals will now be $7,350.
  • OOP for families is capped at $14,700.

People too often focus on deductibles. It’s OOP that’s your true financial exposure.

TO SEE IF YOU QUALIFY FOR A TAX SUBSIDY OR FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

To help determine your eligibility for financial assistance, you will want to visit the MnSure Financial Assistance web page.

If you choose to pursue a tax subsidy, this calculator can help estimate how much you may be eligible for. Even though it asks for income as 2017 dollars, use your estimated 2018 income.

FOR ASSISTANCE OR A TAX CREDIT, YOU MUST APPLY THROUGH MNSURE

Because of the many technical issues during MnSure’s first years, and my own bandwidth, I have opted out of MNsure. They do have an assister locator. I suggest that you look for in-person help from Planned Parenthood, Springboard for the Arts, Neighborhood House or other organizations.

If you choose a subsidy, there are tax implications. It would be wise to consult your accountant first.

IF YOU ARE NOT SEEKING A TAX SUBSIDY OR SOME OTHER FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

Because MnSure is a shopping portal, they don’t directly write insurance. We can assist in placing you with Health Partners, PreferredOne or Blue Cross. Medica and UCare sell exclusively on MnSure. If we write the policy here at Options, you’ll pay the same premium as you would if you bought your plan on MnSure, or through the insurer directly. With us, you’ll get our personalized service.

IF YOU CURRENTLY HAVE A POLICY

You’ll get a letter from your insurer letting you know about any changes your plan may have in 2018. To retain your policy, you may need to submit a document accepting or rejecting the coverage offered. Unless you are leaving that insurer, you’ll probably want to accept the offer, even if you want to move to another plan in their portfolio, which you can do during open enrollment. If you have a bronze plan, you’re already in their most affordable program, don’t expect to move.

Once again, smaller networks are the key to insurers managing expenses. Be sure you stay in your insurance plan’s network.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT NETWORK

Health Partners plans are in the Peak network of Health Partners and Park Nicollet owned clinics. They routinely offer the most plan choices, and for the past three years, consistently the lowest premiums. Individual enrollment will be limited to 73,400 people for 2018.

Blue Cross predominantly works with Allina clinics and physicians, as well as a handful of other providers. This year they’ve added a Gold (the highest priced) plan that includes some office visits with a co-pay.

After laying low on the individual market for a couple of year, PreferredOne is venturing back on a limited basis (their sweet spot is group plans). They’re offering one plan, only accepting 3,000 enrollees and limiting providers to the Twin City metro area, including U of M hospitals, HealthEast and North Memorial.

UCare and Medica are available only on MnSure, I can’t speak to their plans or programs this year.

KEY ENROLLMENT DATES FOR THE 2018 HEALTH PLANS

  • November 1, 2017 open enrollment begins.
  • December 15, 2017 open enrollment for 2018 closes for policies not bought on MnSure.
  • January 1, 2018 is the first date 2018 coverage can start.
  • January 14, 2018 open enrollment for 2018 closes for plans bought on MnSure.
  • Note: If you do not enroll in a 2018 plan by January 14th, you cannot get an ACA compliant health
  • plan for 2018 unless you qualify for the Special Enrollment Period.
  • November 27 – December 7, 2017, I’ll be traveling and hope to make it a vacation. Though I have assistants who can help with the enrollment process, they’re not licensed in health to quote or answer coverage questions. Please plan accordingly 🙂
Sarah Smith
Founder/Broker/Advisor
www.options-insurance.com