With the holidays quickly approaching, your schedule probably feels jam packed. Don’t let shopping for a health insurance plan fall through the cracks. Choosing the right plan is important for your family’s health and finances.
Even if you’re satisfied with your current health plan and health insurance company, it’s still a good idea to evaluate your options annually as your plan price or benefits might have changed.
To keep yourself on track during the 2017 Open Enrollment Period, here are some dates to add to your calendar.
Nov. 1, 2016: Open Enrollment opened on Nov. 1 so you are now free to enroll in an individual or family health insurance plan at any point. Whether you are enrolling for the first time or switching your plan, start early to make sure that you have time to research and compare the options available to you. Shopping early can help you avoid the pressure of stressful deadlines down the road. And it can save you money by giving you the necessary time to make a more informed buying decision.
Dec. 15, 2016: You are shopping for a plan to support your health care needs in 2017. However, if you want the benefits and protection of your new health plan to be effective on Jan. 1, 2017, you need to enroll by Dec. 15, 2016. This is an important date to remember so you don’t have a lapse in coverage between the end of 2016 and the start of 2017. If you don’t enroll or renew your plan by Dec. 15, your coverage wouldn’t begin until Feb. 1 or later, depending on when you enroll or renew.
Jan. 31, 2017: The 2017 Open Enrollment Period concludes on Jan. 31, 2017. If you don’t enroll in a health insurance plan by Jan. 31, 2017, you won’t be eligible for health care coverage in 2017 unless you experience a qualifying life event, which would allow you to enroll during a Special Enrollment Period. Qualifying life events include moving to a new coverage area, aging out of your parents’ plan, having a baby or losing employer sponsored insurance. If you do not have health insurance in 2017, you’ll be required to pay a penalty when filing your federal tax return. The fee is calculated in two different ways, 2.5 percent of your total adjusted gross household income, or $695 per adult, and $347.50 per child to a maximum of $2,085. You will pay whichever is higher.
Renewing your plan? If you intend to stay with your current plan, check with your insurance company to make sure that you are up-to-date on any changes or additions. While you’re not guaranteed to be enrolled in the exact same plan as last year, health insurers do attempt to re-enroll members into similar coverage. To ensure your plan for 2017 is exactly what you’re looking for, it’s best to be proactive to make sure that any changes still meet your needs.
Looking for a new health insurance plan? Shop early and compare plans to make the most informed decision for your health coverage and financial needs. Make sure you think about what you and your family are looking for from your health plan, whether it is the freedom to see out-of-network doctors, or coverage for alternative therapies such as medical massage therapy or acupuncture.
Looking for health insurance doesn’t have to be stressful. During the 2017 Open Enrollment Period, take the time to compare plans and carriers. Not sure how to get started? Here are a few options to help you begin shopping for your first, or next, health insurance plan:
- Visit the Health Insurance Marketplace
- Call a licensed agent
- Work directly with a trusted health insurance company