When Montana health insurance companies started sending me their 2016 plans and rates earlier this year, it quickly became evident plans are changing and prices are going up.
Thankfully, most Montanans won’t pay these higher prices because they have coverage through their employer, the military, Indian Health Services, Medicare or some other program.
The higher rates you’ve read about affect roughly 4 percent of Montanans who buy their health insurance through what’s called “the individual market” and receive no federal tax credit to stabilize the cost.
However, we’re still talking about more than 40,000 people who will be paying higher prices. And, that’s enough to make me worry.
Montana law gives me the authority to review the rates before plans go on sale. I can’t deny a rate increase, but I can try to negotiate with companies to lower the increase if there is evidence the rate is unjustified. While I did just that this year, the reality is that companies had more claims paid than premium this past year. The numbers don’t lie.
We need to ensure Montanans have all the information necessary so they can make the best possible health insurance choices for themselves and their families. That’s going to be harder this year, so Montanans need good information. Beginning Nov. 1, health insurance open enrollment begins, so the time to start thinking about health insurance coverage for 2016 is now.
Here are three things you should know for the upcoming 2016 open enrollment:
Plans Have Changed
Montanans who already have health insurance in the individual market will be automatically renewed in a plan that the insurance company determines most closely resembles the consumer’s current plan. Parts of your plan that you liked before may not be in your 2016 plan. Do not allow the insurance company to automatically renew you unless you are comfortable with the plan after doing research and comparing benefits.
You Don’t Have to Keep the Same Plan
People need to shop carefully and take a close look at the health insurance plans for sale in the 2016 individual market. You can change companies and plans. Do your homework and consider the plans offered by all three health insurance companies. Applying for health insurance is easier than it used to be and remember you cannot be charged higher rates or turned away because you had medical needs this year.
Consider Applying for the Federal Health Insurance Tax Credit
In 2015, 49,000 Montanans bought their health insurance through healthcare.gov and about 85 percent qualified for a federal health insurance tax credit. Purchasing health insurance through healthcare.gov is the only way you can get a federal tax credit. If you’ve been buying your insurance through a trusted agent for years, you can continue to do so and still purchase through healthcare.gov. Just let your agent know and they can help you. Nearly 40,000 Montanans buy their health insurance in the individual market, but they don’t buy through healthcare.gov and they’re not getting a tax credit. If you’re one of these people, consider purchasing your plan through healthcare.gov this year.
For further information about the 2016 open enrollment, please refer to our website www.montanahealthanswers.com or give us a call at 800-332-6148 and we’ll do our best to get you information and point you in the right direction.