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 Coverage – September - 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
- 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 www.Medicare.gov.
- Health Insurance Exchanges – Oct. 1 through March 31, 2014
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.