U.S. PIRG Education Fund
Many consumers who buy their own health insurance face a big decision right now. Should you continue with your existing plan, or switch to a new one?
It’s an especially important decision for consumers who have the option to stay in a plan that falls below minimum standards under the Affordable Care Act. Some states are allowing insurers to continue these “pre-ACA” plans for consumers who want to keep them into 2014.
Below are our top tips for consumers:
1. SHOP AROUND! Now that insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, you can safely shop around. In addition to looking at your existing health insurer’s plans, check out the health insurance marketplace in your state. Plans range from catastrophic plans with high deductibles to plans with fuller coverage. You can find your state’s marketplace by entering your ZIP code into Healthcare.gov.
2. Find out if you can pay less, or get more for your money. You might qualify for financial help that could lower your premium or out-of-pocket costs. Go to Healthcare.gov to apply, or to get connected with the marketplace in your state.
3. Get help comparing your options and applying. In addition to insurance agents and brokers, specially trained people such as navigators, application assisters and certified application counselors are available to help at no cost to you. You can find people in your area at LocalHelp.healthcare.gov.
4. Understand what you’re getting into. Before renewing your plan or picking a different one, make sure you understand the costs, what’s covered and what’s excluded, and what providers are included in the plan’s network. Download our report for a helpful checklist.
5. You have until March 31 to sign up for new coverage. Even if you renewed your current individual plan at the beginning of the year, you can still switch to a plan in your state’s health insurance marketplace as long as you do so by March 31, 2014.
Download the full our report above, which also includes checklist to help you navigate your choices before you make a decision.