Typically, the Obamacare marketplace sees two busy periods during the annual enrollment period: one in the middle of enrollment and one near the very end. This year’s 45-day open enrollment period (in most states), compared to last year’s three months, may result in one big upsurge in enrollment over the next two weeks.
In fact, sign-ups averaged more than 150,000 per day during the first week of open enrollment this year, according to figuresfrom the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, compared to 77,600 per day during the first week of enrollment in 2015. About 23 percent of the enrollees this year are new to the ACA marketplace.
What Changes in 2018 Coverage Costs:
It is more important than ever for people to review plan options this year. The Trump Administration’s decision to end cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies resulted in a rise in premiums—which have been offset by higher tax credits.
Tax credits are tied to the cost of the second-least-expensive silver plan, and as the cost of silver plans rises, so do the tax credits. The average second-cheapest silver plan premium has risen 37 percent for coverage in 2018, resulting in a big rise in credits for those who qualify.
The average premium tax credit paid in 2018 will be $555, up 45% from $382 in 2017 and more than double the $259 in tax credits an average enrollee received in 2014, according to a report from the health department’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.
Many people may find that they can now get Bronze plan coverage at no-cost for the year, while others may discover that a Gold plan with a lower deductible than that offered by Silver plans is far more affordable this year, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Those who make more than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, about $48,000 for an individual, don’t qualify for subsidies and are likely to find much better deals outside of the Obamacare marketplace.
Individuals who make under $24,000 a year should take a careful look at the lowest-cost Silver plans now, while individuals with incomes of $24,000-to under $48,000 should review whether an increase in tax credits makes a Gold plan a better buy than a Silver plan.
The same general advice applies to families; it is recommended that they look at the next tier-up from their current plan and gauge whether increased tax credits—coupled with the premium rises for Silver plans—make a higher-priced plan more affordable.
People may also wish to investigate Bronze plans, many of which are zero-cost this year. Note that zero-cost applies only to monthly premiums, not the cost of actual health care.
Other ACA Enrollment Tips:
- Don’t wait until the last minute to enroll, or to check the details of your current plan. It’s especially important to compare all available options on the market this year, given that subsidies have increased significantly.
- Don’t count on getting help navigating the Healthcare Market this year, federal funding for the “Navigator” programs that help individuals sign up for ACA coverage has been sharply reduced.
- People who are self-employed and who don’t qualify for subsidies should explore the private insurance market’s options. Speak with a broker or conduct research online to better understand what types of plans are available now.
- Self-employed people may also wish to look at the ACA’s qualifications for small business plans. In some cases, a small business with just two employees may meet the requirements for ACA coverage, which may be lower than the costs for individual insurance without subsidies.
- Dental insurance coverage under the ACA continues to be extremely weak for adults. Consider joining a dental savings plan to reduce the costs of dental care by 10%-60%.
Affordable Dental Care Options:
While subsidies provide more healthcare options for those who qualify for assistance this year, people will still be struggling to pay for essential services such as dental care. The ACA, oddly, does not consider dental care to be an essential benefit for adults. And while it does list dental for children as essential, the law does not require dental to be included in family plans—only that dental insurance must be available for purchase.
Since dental insurance is not required, investigating alternatives such as dental savings plans may save people money on the cost of coverage as well as the cost of their dental care. Dental savings plans are typically priced at half-the-cost of traditional dental insurance and can save members 10%-60% on most dental procedures, including crowns, root canals, braces and more. And many dental savings plans also include discounts on vision care, hearing care and prescription drugs.
"Our goal is to make sure that all Americans can afford to get the quality dental care that is necessary to feel confident and lead a happier, healthier life. With more than a million people served since we opened for business in 1999, we know we're meeting a real need," said Bill Chase, vice president of marketing at DentalPlans.com, a leading online provider of dental savings plans and other cost-reducing healthcare options.
Find out more about dental savings plans at dentalplans.com.
DentalPlans.com, founded in 1999, is a leading dental and health savings online marketplace in the U.S., helping more than a million people to affordably access quality healthcare services. Our mission is to empower consumers with the tools, information, and services that they need to live happier, healthier lives. www.dentalplans.com.