The way individual consumers purchased health insurance changed for good last October with the opening of the Health Insurance Marketplace, which created an online experience for consumers to compare products and pricing. The Marketplace “storefront” will remain open through March 31, and once it closes consumers will be unable to shop for insurance on the Marketplace until it re-opens on Nov. 15, 2014. Blue Cross is encouraging consumers to select their plans early to avoid a last minute rush that can result in longer wait times to enroll.
“We encourage consumers not to wait until the last minute to shop for individual insurance, and get enrolled in a plan now,” said Terry Burke, vice president of individual business for BCBSM. “Have you ever waited until the night before Thanksgiving to go grocery shopping? Or waited until Christmas Eve to start shopping? Stores are overwhelmed and the wait in line can take hours. Likewise, we’re anticipating a high volume of marketplace enrollments, likely resulting in very high call volumes between Mar. 10 and Mar. 31. Smart consumers will research the plan options and enroll now.”
Nearly half of Americans are aware of the March 31 deadline to buy health insurance, according to Bankrate’s latest Health Insurance Pulse survey. While the data shows an increase in public awareness, the same survey reports that one in four believes the final deadline passed on Jan. 1 or that the requirements are no longer in effect.
Just as consumers wouldn’t receive a product immediately when ordering online, there is a short time period between enrolling in coverage and when the coverage becomes effective.
- If you want coverage to begin by March 1, the deadline to enroll is Feb. 15.
- If you want coverage to begin by April 1, enroll between Feb. 16 and March 15.
- If you want coverage to begin by May 1, enroll between March 16 and March 31.
In addition to key enrollment deadlines, consumers should be aware of the financial impacts of not enrolling in a plan:
Tax penalty: Those who miss the March 31 deadline may be subject to a tax penalty on their 2014 federal tax return.
Gambling with their health: Those who miss the March 31 deadline will not be able to enroll again until November, 2014, for coverage starting in January, 2015, leaving them vulnerable to the extreme financial risks that go along with living uninsured.
The group most confused about health insurance enrollment deadlines is the 18- to 29- year-old age group known as the ‘Young Invincibles.’ In an effort to educate this group on the importance of health insurance and key deadlines, nearly 80 organizations have partnered to organize National Youth Enrollment Day on Feb. 15. Blue Cross has a number of resources to help consumers enroll, including:
Coverage checklist: Consumers can go to Healthcarereformbasics.com and click on ‘prepare to enroll’ for guidance on finding the health insurance plan that’s best for them. Included in this site is a simple step-by-step guide that will help consumers understand key concepts and gather the information they will need to enroll.
Research and have your information ready before calling to enroll: To reduce consult time, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan encourages consumers to go take the following five steps:
1. Determine subsidy eligible by going to www.bcbsm.com/subsidy or text “4subsidy” to 222-752 and follow the prompts.
2. Go to BCBSM.com to shop and compare.
3. Have primary care doctor(s) name and address handy.
4. Be prepared with income information, birth date(s) and Social Security Numbers of everyone who will be on the plan.
5. Set aside 30 minutes or more for the call to make sure consumers get all their questions answered and can complete an application.
Call a BCBSM Health Plan Advisor: Consumers can also call a health plan advisor at 1-855-890-2410, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. or connect with an agent.
Source: BCBSM press release