Free expert health insurance advice can lower your out-of-pocket medical expenses and ensure that doctors, specialists, and hospitals are in the provider network. Experienced brokers and agents can quickly determine the most cost-effective selections for private Marketplace plans, non-Obamacare options, and also Senior Medicare contracts. Typically, there is no cost when you use these services. Premium payments for policies are generally paid directly to the carrier, and not the broker.
Without quality benefits in place, the cost of being treated for the most basic services can be a bank account draining process. For this reason, each person should ensure that they always have current coverage. Previously, it became a legal responsibility with the passage of "The Affordable Care Act," despite millions of Americans remaining uninsured. The legal requirement to purchase mandated medical benefits ended two years ago, although an experienced professional is needed to review and explain the differences of non-Obamacare and compliant policies. Often, COBRA must also be considered for workers that leave their employer. Coverage is guaranteed, and dental and vision benefits are often included.
Although the prior penalty was not severe the first year (just $95), it gradually increased to 2.5% of household income for noncompliance. A knowledgeable broker always kept you compliant, and also helped compare all Exchange plans that were offered on the State and Federal Marketplace. For persons that miss the Open Enrollment deadline (or choose not to obtain coverage), many low-cost options are offered, although out-of-pocket expenses are often higher than conventional plans. Limitations are are also common on plan duration, office visit and prescription drug copays, and covered preventative benefits. Network and non-network coverage are typically quite different.
For example, premiums on short-term plans are generally very low. However, deductibles and maximum out-of-pocket expenses are often significantly higher than standard plans. And instead of unlimited benefits, maximum coverage is generally $500,000-$2 million. Office visits and prescriptions are typically subject to a deductible, and preventative benefits are generally not covered at 100%. In recent years, however, Urgent Care and virtual office visits are often offered without having to meet a deductible (copay only). Dental, vision, and other ancillary benefits can often be added when applying for coverage.
Qualified preventative benefits are provided at no charge on Marketplace contracts, although on many temporary plans, the deductible must be met. Unlike ACA Marketplace plans, 100% coverage for mandated preventative expenses is not required, and is one of the reasons temporary plan prices are quite low. Network negotiated discounts, however, can provide substantial savings, especially for x-rays, diagnostic tests, and hospital visits. Anthem Blue Cross, UnitedHealthcare, and Aetna networks are available in many states for temporary policies.
While we assume we will always be healthy, tomorrow is always an uncertainty, and a multitude of illnesses, sickness or an accident, could occur at any moment in time. Your coverage will give you preventive benefits and security, but first you must choose the policy that will meet your needs. And yes, that can be very challenging, considering how many reputable carriers offer coverage in most states. And of course, the Open Enrollment deadline must not be missed, which typically ends on January 15th, unless a "Special Enrollment Period" is available.
Senior Medicare enrollment ends on December 7th, although plan options are quite different than plan choices for applicants under age 65. Federal subsidies are not offered, and Medicare eligibility is required. "Dual" plans are available for applicants that are eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare. Copays and deductibles are typically very low for "Dual" Advantage (MA) plans. Prescription drug benefits are often included along with dental, vision, and hearing coverage.
Further complicating the decision-making process is that not all companies participate in State Marketplaces. For example, although Blue Cross (Blue Shield) previously participated in every State Exchange, they have now withdrawn from several areas. Heavyweight carriers Aetna, Humana, UnitedHealthcare and others have exited the states where they previously offered coverage, although UHC has returned in limited areas.
And since the number of participating carriers has decreased in most states, in many situations, you may not be able to choose your preferred company, if you want a federal subsidy. In some counties, there is only one available carrier, and a limited number of available plans. Several states only have two available companies participating on the Exchange. Off-Exchange plans, however, are available in all states, including short-term contracts that feature extremely low premiums.
A Broker Or Insurance Agent Can Help
Whether you’ve been covered under different plans in the past, or are new to the process, one thing always remains the same- choosing the right policy can be tricky. There are an enormous amount of essential terms for you to understand in order to select a policy that will live up to your expectations while remaining within your budget. Learning how to get a healthcare quote online is not an easy process. There are many challenges and obstacles, and our job is to simplify the process, and review your best options.
Fortunately, that’s where an agent or independent broker can help. They are experts in researching and finding coverage, and can help you choose a personalized policy that meets or exceeds your budget and benefit expectations. Federal tax subsidies can help reduce premiums if you are eligible. Typically, if your income falls under 400% of the Federal Poverty Level, you will receive financial assistance. If under 100% (sometimes higher in Medicaid Expansion states), you may be eligible for Medicaid. Seniors that qualify for Medicaid AND Medicare may be able to enroll in a Dual Medicare Advantage (MA) plan. Typically, copays and deductibles are very low on these types of plans, and many major carriers offer multiple options.
Marketplace plans can also be purchased without a federal subsidy, although applicants in their 50s (and especially 60s) will pay a higher premium. Families with dependents receive a larger financial aid package, and depending on the household income, CHIP may be offered to children. The federal government will typically increase subsidy amounts during extreme health or financial challenges to the country (COVID). Persons that have previously qualified for unemployment compensation were also eligible for increased subsidies, although the benefit was temporary. 2023 subsidies are higher, thanks to recently-passed legislation.
If you're between levels (and millions of persons are), comparing Bronze, Silver and Gold plans (and sometimes Platinum and Catastrophic) is needed before applying for coverage. An experienced agent/broker typically provides much more assistance than a "navigator." Navigators are often unlicensed and not full-time workers in the health insurance field. Funding for navigators has drastically reduced in many states, since their effectiveness has been questioned by many persons. A navigator's experience is very limited compared to an experienced broker's background. Licensing requirements are very limited for the work they perform, and work turnover is high. In many states, funding for navigators has decreased since the creation of the ACA.
Your representative can give you personalized attention that you can’t get anywhere else. With their in-depth knowledge of the various carriers and policies, they can quickly and easily assist you in obtaining a policy and also servicing the contract in future years. That’s much more effective than having to call a 1-800 number and speaking to a stranger every time you need help, especially, if you are re-routed outside the US. Although the Healthcare.gov agents and customer service representatives are generally fairly helpful, their level of experience is generally inferior when compared to licensed agents. Typically, they are not located in your state, and are not familiar with local carriers and plans.
Your agent also can explain all of the details that may be hard to understand, as well as address any and all concerns that you may have. While online links and resources may offer a bit of assistance, speaking to an expert that you already know and trust is the preferred option. When the State Exchanges began operating seven years ago, suddenly, you needed to consult a broker to determine the best plan to purchase, and understand what tax breaks you would qualify for.
Open Enrollment previously began on November 1st each year, and lasted for 45 days. The 2022 and 2023 OE periods began on November 1st and extended to January 15th. The increased time provides more opportunities to select a plan. More companies and plans are now available, and non-Obamacare plans are still available and are available throughout the entire year. However, most plans offered after the OE period ends, do not cover pre-existing conditions, and generally have high out-of-pocket expenses for major surgeries and hospital confinements. For example, short-term plans are very inexpensive, but do not cover pre-existing conditions and also cap the amount of maximum benefits payable.
For persons that prefer working online with their broker, modern quote engines will allow you to compare, shop and even purchase your policy without seeing anyone in person. But a quote engine still can not interpret which of the many options best fits your personal budget. That's why most experienced agents utilize a combination of experience and online applications. The Obamacare federal subsidy must also be correctly calculated, or a reduction of a tax refund may result the following year. Changes in income and family composition can impact the amount and eligibility of a subsidy. Medicaid and Medicare eligibility, if applicable, must also be considered.
With the latest information and unbiased advice working for you, viewing the best offers while getting a better policy is something you can always count on. Shopping and comparing multiple plans is necessary if you are going to get the lowest rates. Each carrier offers various policies in different areas, so your provider network will also have to be checked to verify your physicians are participating. Specialists, hospitals, and other medical facilities should also be checked. Ancillary products, including, dental, vision, and hearing, may no longer be offered by specific companies. You can also purchase these types of plans after the Open Enrollment period has ended.
Investment products should be purchased by financial institutions, and not health insurers. Although mutual funds and selected fixed-income investments may be offered by your property and casualty carrier, often working with a certified financial planner or large investment company results in more available information and increased assistance in creating and managing your portfolio. Fidelity and Charles Schwab are two of the largest consumer investment firms in the US.
Don't Try To Do Too Much Alone
An experienced broker can explain the variations in policies, what specific terms mean, and guide you through a sometimes-complicated enrollment process. You will always get coverage that is tailored for your needs when you have the experts working on your side. Yes, just like Nationwide! Typically, consumers should request to work with brokers that have at least 20 years of experience in the healthcare business. An independent broker will represent more carriers than a captive agent. For employer-related benefits, a Group broker is the best option. The local Chamber Of Commerce may also offer small group healthcare options.
Also, a "captive" broker only represents one carrier, while an "independent" broker represents several companies. Since coverage is often customized, it's important to be able to view many company offers, and not just one or two. Often, if you need supplemental coverage, the primary and secondary plans may be more cost-efficient if issued by separate carriers. Duplicate benefits can be avoided, and customized coverage can be utilized.
As a licensed professional who has made it his job to provide you, his or her customer, with the best policy at the lowest possible rates, you're also in "good hands." (Yes...just like Allstate!) As premiums and coverage change over the years, he/she can take the time to update your existing policies and make any appropriate recommendations. Unbiased advice is always a great tool to have. But it is also important to stay abreast of all the changes (especially in the healthcare field) that occur. Rates typically change each year for both Senior and under-65 products. But plan designs can also change, and often, specific policies are discontinued, and new options become available.
Why would you not want to receive free advice from an experienced broker when they are there ready to serve you? With benefits as previously mentioned, you can see why it is always advisable to consult with someone who will have your best interests in mind at all times. Typically, you can choose to meet face-to-face or simply communicate via email and/or phone. Generally, hard copy brochures are no longer sent, since comprehensive materials are available online, and pdf files can be easily downloaded.
There is no cost to use the services of a licensed agent, and they are accessible for extended hours. You can contact them any time that you would like to have all of your questions answered, and your concerns addressed. If you can find a person that is experienced and is located near you, that’s a great start! And of course, you can contact us directly for the same expert help. Regardless if you are reviewing Senior Medicare products, or under-65 plans, we are just a phone call or email away.
Our website helps you find apply for the right plans. You can choose whether to apply direct, or with the help of a broker. Regardless of which option you select, there are never any fees or obligation. Our guidance and assistance is always free, including helping with the enrollment process on State Health Exchanges. We can also help you to determine your eligibility for a federal subsidy, and review your potential eligibility for Medicare or Medicaid benefits.