posted by Kelley Turek
on December 12, 2018
Trouble navigating the health care system? You’re not alone. I work in the health care space and can tell you it is confusing, complicated and can be frustrating. As a younger American, I understand why it’s causing a lot of us to throw up our hands and skip getting the health insurance coverage we need – despite it putting our health and their financial security at risk.
While a major health event typically happens later in life, good care of yourself in your 20s and 30s is critical to keeping you healthy and well into your 50s and 60s. That starts with making sure you have the health care coverage that’s right for you.
Here are some steps you can take to select the right coverage.
Everyone deserves and needs to be protected and covered, even if you are young and in good health.
If you’re 26 or younger and your parents have insurance coverage, good news. You’re covered. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), young Americans can stay on their parent or guardian’s insurance plan until they reach age 26.
If your job offers health insurance as a benefit – and more than 180 million Americans get their coverage through work – you should reach out to your human resources department or a manager to ask questions. This is the time of year most companies let you choose or change plans.
If you purchase coverage on your own, remember that open enrollment is right now and ends December 15th , though it is longer in some states like California. You can review all plans offered on www.HealthCare.Gov – where you may be eligible for discounted coverage – or you can reach out directly to a health insurance provider. When you look at the options, and make sure to check out the provider network as well to make sure your preferred doctor is included (if you have one).
And we’ve all heard a lot about pre-existing conditions. Despite what you may have heard in the media or by politicians, you cannot be excluded for having any kind of pre-existing condition. So, take that off the list of worries.
None of us plan to get sick or injured. But if you don’t get covered and need to go to the doctor, have tests, fill a prescription, or even get basic preventive care, it could end up costing you a lot. In fact, uninsured adults were found to be twice as likely as the insured to have had problems paying their medical bills in the past 12 months. The average cost for a routine check-up or illness without insurance can cost up to $200, often more. Health insurance helps protect you from overwhelming medical debt when you get sick or injured.
All health plans provide access to preventive care with $0 copay (no cost to you). More importantly, that simple annual check-up could save you the hundreds if not thousands of dollars it would cost to treat a disease or condition left unchecked.
Also, depending on where you live there may be more choices for plans on Healthcare.gov this year, and premium increases are generally lower for 2019 plan offerings across the nation. And choosing between digital convenience and continuity of care don’t need to be mutually exclusive. Many health insurance providers offer plans with options like telehealth, digital tools, and even smartphone apps to easily access your information and get care.
Of course you do – I have questions every year when I enroll. Fortunately, there are resources for that. Most health insurance providers have call centers with people who can help and websites with important information (some also have online chat functions). Many insurance providers even have dedicated experts who can offer online assistance or walk individuals through the process step-by-step to select a plan. You can also visit http://myhealthplan.guide/ , a website dedicated to helping people find a plan that works best for them.
This year, you should also be aware that short-term plans are available for longer periods of time than they used to be. These plans are available through insurance providers (not through Healthcare.gov). At first glance, these plans often look attractive because they have very low premiums. However, they may not provide coverage for any pre-existing health conditions and likely do not offer cover the same treatments and services that Healthcare.gov plans cover (such as mental health, prescriptions, or maternity coverage). Be smart about what you’re buying and enroll in coverage that will protect your health and your wallet.
Let’s be honest, no one has time to worry about paying medical bills or affording a necessary procedure. Don’t put off getting coverage. You’ll thank yourself later.
Kelley Turek, Executive Director of Employer and Commercial Policy, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)