4 Reasons to Window Shop Before the Health Insurance Open Enrollment Period Begins

4 Reasons to Window Shop Before the Health Insurance Open Enrollment Period Begins

Oct 22 2018

Do you start shopping for holiday gifts before the Thanksgiving turkey is even off the table? Do you pride yourself on finding the best deals before anyone else?

While you can’t purchase a health plan until the start of the Open Enrollment Period (OEP) on Nov.1, window shopping beforehand prepares you to make a more informed decision when the time finally comes.

Selecting the right health insurance plan takes research and time, just like any other big purchase. Selecting health insurance is a significant financial decision that affects you and your family for the rest of the year, so you want to make sure you’ve done your research. The Health Insurance Marketplace is a tool that makes researching easier and more efficient by providing all the information in one place.

Research takes time.

Are you looking for family coverage? How much do you anticipate spending on health care expenses this upcoming year? Do you or a family member visit the doctor frequently? These are all things to consider as you shop. Whether you’re a returning customer or a new shopper, shopping early gives you the time to compare and evaluate your options so you can pick a plan with benefits and coverage that best fits your needs. While a plan with the lowest monthly premium may seem like the best deal, it may not be the best plan for you. For example, the plan you find with the lowest monthly premium may be tied to a narrow network. Narrow network plans require you to stay within a limited network for care. This is a great choice if you already receive all your care from one health care system, but if you’re looking for the freedom to see doctors outside of one network, a narrow network probably isn’t for you.

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Health care terms can be confusing.

Health care shopping comes with enough terms and acronyms to make your head spin. Taking the time to research and familiarize yourself with health care terms is essential to understanding your coverage options. For example, knowing that Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans only cover in-network care gives you time to research and make sure your preferred doctors and hospitals fall within the plan’s network. Or, if you’re relatively healthy and don’t visit the doctor often, knowing the difference between a bronze and a platinum plan could save you from paying a high premium for broader, richer coverage that you may not necessarily need.

It’s smart to plan ahead financially.

Do you know if you qualify for a subsidy? If you’ve had a subsidy in the past and your financial situation has changed, you may or may not qualify for the upcoming year. It’s helpful to know if you qualify for financial assistance as soon as possible so you can prepare for your 2019 health insurance expenses as necessary.

You may qualify for financial help even if you earn up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. For 2018, qualifying annual income is $12,140 for an individual and $25,100 for a family of four. A subsidy could lower your premium, reduce your cost-sharing or give you tax credits. The Marketplace offers a subsidy calculator that estimates the financial help you might be eligible for given basic information about your income and household.

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Early research can help you avoid last-minute stress.

Window shopping early will keep you from feeling the pressure of last-minute decisions. For your coverage to start on Jan. 1, 2019, you’ll have to purchase a health plan by the end of this year’s OEP on Dec. 15, 2018. If you don’t purchase a health plan before this deadline, you might have to wait an entire year to apply for coverage unless you experience a qualifying life event.

Missing the deadline won’t only be a financial burden in the event of a health emergency, but you’ll have to pay a tax penalty when you file your federal tax return. Shop early and avoid the stress of looming deadlines.

Shopping for coverage doesn’t have to be a headache. If you start window shopping for a plan now, you’ll be prepared to make an informed decision about your health insurance by the time the Open Enrollment Period begins.

Ready to start window shopping? Shop Priority Health plans here.

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