Health insurance is not an option but a compulsion. You might fall sick and need to stay in a hospital for few weeks. Or even worse, the doctors prescribe you a surgery. How would you manage to pay for it? Either by breaking your savings or by borrowing money. That leaves little choice other than to buy health insurance.
Having a health insurance means you won’t have to do any of the above. It makes you self-dependent and relieves you from worries. The bad news is that Congress might soon revoke Obamacare, which brought a smile to many faces around us. Don’t believe me? Okay, read this.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Tina’s article deals with the mechanics of applying for Obamacare, and I’ve agreed to publish her post. However, long-time readers are aware that I believe that Obamacare is a failed program to be used only as a last resort, and only after exhausting all other possibilities. Obamacare health plans are expensive and come with high deductibles that make them even less affordable than the previous health insurance plans that Obamacare has replaced. I applied for Obamacare for my family in 2015 and we made the decision not to go forward with it.)
The Message is Clear
That there would be no free or subsidized meal, and you’ll have to arrange it yourself. Insurance policies, these days, are like double-edged swords. Their cost has been steadily increasing over the last few years, and the coverage limits have been systematically decreasing.
You need a policy with high coverage limit and flexible rate of premium. It’s difficult unless you shop around, and follow the tips I’m going to lay down below:
Outpatient procedure alternative
People often buy policies with high deductibles, which they hope will cover visits to the local doctor’s chamber. The coverage costs around $100 for each single patient. There’s a much cheaper alternative, which costs around $60. Visit your local drugstore to know whether they run an in-store clinic. Doctors in such clinics charge an affordable amount.
If your local drugstore doesn’t run an outpatient clinic, no problem. There are many drugstores that do, and you need to find them. Google can be of excellent help for this pursuit.
Employee health care
If you extend the health care benefits offered by your employer, you could easily save bundles of money. Some smart ways of doing that are squeezing the wellness package, taking full advantage of the FSA, using voluntary benefits in your favor, etc.
The wellness package, more often than not, consists of some sort of quit smoking program, waivers on a gym memberships weight loss schedules and guidance related to personal health. The FSA, or flexible spending account, allows you to keep a portion of your earnings aside before paying the income tax. You can not only use this money to pay for any outpatient visit, but also to pay deductibles for your existing health insurance plan.
As for voluntary benefits, not all employers offer it. If your employer offers it, ask them what features the package includes. If it includes services such as disability insurance, opt for it because nobody knows what’ll happen in future.
Opting for a low-deductible insurance is one thing, but not opting for any insurance is a completely different thing, so much so that doing it in 2016 can result in penalties. At the time of filing your income tax return, you’d have to pay the penalty as a fee.
I advise you get a health insurance this year because the penalty fee for 2016 will be much higher than in 2015. There are two methods to calculate the penalty. The first is charging you 2.5% of your annual household income upfront, and the second is $695 for each member 18 years of age or older and exactly half of that amount for those younger than 18.
Special enrollment period
There seems to be a carrot-and-stick strategy at work. You get penalized if you don’t enroll (the stick) and enjoy an extended enrollment period (the carrot) in certain events. You are only eligible for a special enrollment period if you have qualifying life event.
What makes up a qualifying life event? It’s an event that changes your insurance needs as well as status. The time you get to enroll after a qualifying life event is no less than two months. However, if the plan is through your employer, then the time limit is short, only a month. Some of the qualifying life events are getting married, losing existing health coverage, moving to a new home, having a kid, adopting a child, etc.
The list doesn’t end here as it includes few other events. I suggest you consult with an expert and get to know all qualifying life events to decide whether or not you have the sixty days grace period.
Whether you are qualified for it depends on your income. At the time of enrolling, put the expected income for 2016 in the relevant section of the form. You’d feel assured to know the majority of people, who apply for a premium tax credit, receive it, and their monthly insurance premium is lowered.
The tips given here are to enlighten you. If you are uninsured, don’t waste time and apply today while taking them in stride.
What do you think of the tips? Do you have anything to add? Let us know in the comment section below.