Thursday, October 17, 2013

Open Enrollment Season

It’s the time of year when many people are thinking of getting relief from the summer sun, taking in the colorful tree leaves and enjoying a pumpkin latte.  But for those of us in the health insurance industry, this is open enrollment season. With the launch of state and federal health insurance exchanges, ‘tis the season for lots of changes. 

Open enrollment season, usually between September and December, is when millions of Americans have the opportunity to select or switch their health insurance plan for the following year. This fall, the Congressional Budget Office estimates an additional 7 million people may participate in open enrollment as a result of the government’s newly created state health insurance exchanges, otherwise known as “marketplaces.” The exchanges are designed to give individuals, who are currently without health insurance, and small business owners, who sometimes find it too costly to provide, a resource to purchase health insurance.

Regardless of how you research and purchase your health insurance, it’s important to pay attention to the following open-enrollment dates and tips:
  • Employer-Provided CoverageSeptember - December; specific time frame depends on the employer
    Most Americans receive employer-provided health benefits. Large employers and some small employers typically schedule a two- to three-week period during the fall when their employees can select health benefits for the following year.
    • Tip: Ask about wellness programs. Some health insurers, including UnitedHealthcare, offer incentive-based wellness programs that provide financial rewards for completing health assessments, lowering your cholesterol, losing weight, or even signing up for a health coaching program.

  •  Medicare Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, 2013
    For most Medicare beneficiaries, the Open Enrollment Period is their only opportunity all year to make changes to their Medicare coverage. 
    • Tip: Think about what’s changed regarding your health and your options. A lot can change in a year. Consider if your current plan is still meeting your health and budget needs. Medicare plans can change each year, too, so spend time reviewing the options available. Some Medicare Advantage plans offer additional benefits that can help enhance your health and well-being and save you money, such as vision coverage and hearing aids. You can compare your options using the plan finder tool on

  • Health Insurance Exchanges Oct. 1 through March 31, 2014
    A public health insurance exchange may be a good option for people who don’t have health insurance since they may be eligible to receive a government subsidy that lowers monthly premiums.
    • Tip: Find out if you qualify for a subsidy. In general, subsidies are available to individuals who meet household income requirements and who are not eligible for certain government insurance programs (such as Medicaid) or do not have access to affordable coverage through their employer.
Unfortunately, just 14 percent of Americans understand basic health insurance concepts such as deductible, copay, co-insurance and out-of-pocket maximum, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Health Economics.  So before you dive into the selection process, make certain that you understand the basic definitions, for example “what’s a copay?”
For helpful information that’s simple and easy to understand visit  or To learn more about health insurance exchanges visit or your local state government website

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