In late October, millions of Americans will receive two notices. One letter will be from their insurance companies informing them of their monthly premium for 2017. Another notice, sent by the federal government, will declare the most recent amount of any subsidies paid in 2016 and indicate whether or not they will be re-enrolled in your current plan.
It seems straightforward, so what’s the problem?
It’s true that if you do nothing, you will automatically be re-enrolled in your same plan and in many cases you may even receive the same subsidy as last year. But the data that your notice is based on could be inaccurate, so even if your notice indicates that you don’t need to do anything, it’s essential that you update your information. Otherwise, you may end up paying much higher premiums for the same plan you had last year.
Why might your notice have incorrect information?
1) The government does not have up-to-date information.
You are supposed to report “income or life changes” such as the birth of a child, marriage, or a new job to the federal exchange online or over the phone in addition to your health insurance company. If you didn’t do this, the notice you receive will be based on the data the government has, which could be one or two years old.
2) Subsidies may change.
Subsidies are based on the premium costs of a benchmark Silver plan. However, the plan that was the benchmark last year may no longer be the benchmark – a cheaper plan may be the benchmark this year. Your new subsidy will be based on the cost of that cheaper plan rather than the plan, so it will cover much less of your premium. In addition to the changes in subsidies, the plans that were least expensive last year may now be seeing above-average rate hikes, compounding the impact on monthly premiums.
There are other issues, as well. Since the government notices will be sent before the Open Enrollment Period begins on November 1, new health insurance plans (which might change the benchmark plan for subsidies) will not yet be available. That means the information provided in the letter may not be accurate.
Consumers will not be able to get accurate information about plan eligibility and their health insurance options until the beginning of open enrollment on November 1. Even if you receive one notice that tells you that your premium will stay the same, and a second notice indicating that you will be auto-enrolled in your policy with the same tax credits you received last year, you’ll still want to review all of your options.
Instead of just auto-renewing in your old plan and assuming that your premium and subsidy will remain the same, you should double-check that your plan is truly the best option for you. You can do this by calling a licensed insurance agent with HealthMarkets Insurance Agency who will do the research for you and provide you with the options that best meet your needs and budget – even if it’s staying with your current plan.
Licensed agents with HealthMarkets Insurance Agency are available in the weeks before the Open Enrollment Period to clarify your situation for you. We can’t begin to sell health insurance plans until November 1, but we can discuss how your subsidy may be affected and what the notices you receive mean for your particular situation.
We can help you find the plan that fits your budget, so you don’t accidentally auto-enroll in a plan that is no longer right for you. When you receive your notices in the mail, call HealthMarkets at (800) 304-3414 and we’ll determine your current status so you can make the best choices for yourself and your family.