For people who do not get health insurance through their job or another program, Nov. 1 through Dec. 15 is an important time. It’s the open enrollment period at HealthCare.gov, where individuals and families can sign up for coverage and the only place they can get help with health insurance costs.
Open enrollment is just 45 days long. People who need to get or renew coverage should act soon. Follow these tips to get covered:
1. Get free, local help enrolling. You can sign up for health insurance on your own at HealthCare.gov, but if you face any difficulties, have questions, or need advice to choose a plan, trained experts are available. Certified community groups (community partners) and licensed insurance agents will help you free of charge. They are listed at OregonHealthCare.gov/gethelp. Only licensed insurance agents can give plan advice.
2. If you already have HealthCare.gov coverage, log in to your account to update your application and look through your 2018 plan options. Your income, available plans, or premiums may have changed since you last enrolled. To make sure you continue to get all the financial assistance you qualify for and to choose the plan that’s best for your needs and your budget, you should actively shop at HealthCare.gov. People who do so, instead of automatically being renewed, often save money.
3. Be ready to submit documents to verify income, but don’t let paperwork stop you from starting your enrollment. When you apply for financial assistance at HealthCare.gov, you enter the income you think you will have for 2018. That is easiest for people whose income does not change much. HealthCare.gov will sometimes ask for proof of income if you enter an amount that is much different from what you had last year. Don’t be surprised if you are asked to upload or mail in paperwork to prove your current income. Don’t let it stop you from starting your application. Many times, those extra documents are not required.
4. If you want to keep seeing your current doctors, make a list. Many health insurance plans rely on networks of providers, and you save the most money when you see an in-network doctor, nurse practitioner, or health care provider. Plans and networks can change, and HealthCare.gov has tools for narrowing your plan options to the ones that include your providers in their networks. It helps if you have your list handy when you start to look through the plans. An insurance agent can help you make sense of network changes and find the plan that matches your provider needs.
5. Mind the deadline! Open enrollment for 2018 plans ends Dec. 15. Once the deadline passes, you won’t be able to get or switch plans unless you experience a major life event, such as moving across the state or out of state. Start your application early, and get help if you need it. Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace staff can answer questions by phone at 1-855-268-3736 (toll free). Other experts are listed at OregonHealthCare.gov/gethelp.