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Open Enrollment: Black Friday for Health Insurance.

We always hear about people camping out for deals on will save them $50-100 on Black Friday. What if I were to tell you that you could save that much money in a shorter amount of time to drive to the store and check out on Black Friday?* What if I told you that you didn’t need to brave the cold and possibly save up to 3 times that amount without waiting in lines and fighting people for a sale? This great sale is Open Enrollment (or Medicare Open Enrollment or Marketplace Open Enrollment) season. Open Enrollment is the time of year where you are allowed to change your health insurance. Health insurance is boring and complex, but worry not! Your friends at Why You’re Broke is here to make it less complex (but just as boring), so you can save more money than you will on Black Friday.

What’s Covered

A (layman’s) primer on health insurance

Before we begin, because health insurance is a complex topic to understand, here are some terms you have to understand:

  • Premium: what you have to pay each month
  • Out of pocket costs: Any additional costs you have to pay in addition to your premium
  • Deductible: a type of out of pocket cost that you must pay before your insurance starts paying
  • Coinsurance: a type of out of pocket cost that you must pay after your deductible (usually a percentage)
  • Co-pay: a type of out of pocket cost that you must pay when you visit your doctor
  • Coverage: What your insurance covers. This can speak to the type of procedures and/or how much you pay for your insurance. 

What is Open Enrollment?

Open Enrollment is the only time of year that you are allowed to change health insurance plans other than life-changing events. When you enroll in a health insurance plan, you are essentially subscribing to that insurance for one year. Unlike any type of subscription that you might have like cable or Netflix, you cannot add or change your health insurance whenever you feel like. Unless you have a life-changing event, you can only shop and change plans during Open Enrollment.  Depending on the type of health insurance you have now (employer, healthcare exchange, Obamacare, Medicare, etc.), your Open Enrollment dates may differ.

Why You Should Care About Open Enrollment.

If you were to guess that it’s about money, then you are correct. Crazy right? I know, especially seeing how we’re a site about personal finance and all. Whether your insurance is through your employer, Obamacare, the healthcare exchanges, or Medicare, your plans’ prices, details, and coverages can change every year. To put it in simple language: the plan you have right now is likely going to be different next year. These changes while usually small can have a major change on you. An excellent example would be myself.

An example from Mrs. Broke

I’ve used an inhaler daily for her severe asthma since 10. I worked for a non-profit that provided excellent health insurance. For the longest time, my inhaler was covered by my health insurance which cost me $10 for a monthly prescription. One day, when I went to pick up her $10 inhaler, she was charged $500 for a one-month prescription! What happened? I decided to stick with my health insurance during my employers’ Open Enrollment. Because I didn’t check changes in coverage, my insurer deemed the inhaler as unnecessary and required I to pay the full price to get the prescription. Basically, I made a $5,880 mistake! Don’t be me! Review your plans during Open Enrollment.

My reaction that day…but in a pharmacy not the woods.

When Is Open Enrollment?

From this section, we will break it down based on whether you have employer health insurance, Medicare, or Marketplace /Obamacare health insurance.

For people with employer health insurance

Open Enrollment depends on your current situation. If you receive health insurance through your employer, it will generally be in the Fall, but can be any time. Check with your human resources department to determine when the dates are.

For people with Medicare

Open Enrollment for people with Medicare occurs October 15 to December 7 every year.

For people with Marketplace/ Obamacare Health insurance

Open Enrollment for people with Marketplace/Obamacare Health Insurance occurs November 1 to December 15 every year. The only situation that this is not true are states that have set up their own healthcare exchanges. These states all start on the same date as the Marketplace Open Enrollment. However, the difference is they end later. The states for 2020 that have an extended Marketplace Open Enrollment are:

States End Dates for Open Enrollment 2020
California January 15, 2020
Colorado January 15, 2020
Massachusetts January 23, 2020
Minnesota December 23, 2019
New York January 31, 2020
Rhode Island December 23, 2019
Washington DC January 31, 2020

What happens when you don’t like your health insurance or don’t enroll by the end of Open Enrollment? Special Enrollment Periods.

Regardless of what type of insurance you have (Medicare, Marketplace, Obamacare, or employer), if you don’t like the insurance that you enroll in, you are not allowed to change it. The only situation that you are able to change it is outlined as a qualifying life event. In other words, a qualifying life event is a life-changing event. Similarly, if you decide to not enroll, then you are not allowed to enroll unless you have a life-changing circumstance. Additionally, you will face a penalty for not having insurance (there is no penalty now).

So what exactly are life-changing circumstances? Life-changing circumstances are placed in four basic categories by the government. They are as follows:

Where to go during Open Enrollment

This really depends on your coverage type.

For people with employer health insurance

Go to your HR and request for documents pertaining to the different health insurance offerings. You can likely get your HR to help explain the differences in insurance.

For people with Medicare

You should go to Medicare.gov and use their Plan Finder pages to look up different plans that are in your zip code. Plan Finder also helps write out your different costs.

Note: Make sure to know what type of Medicare Plan you are enrolled in and have your Medicare card ready. If you have a Part D plan, you are generally allowed to switch to another Part D plan only. If you have a Medicare Advantage or Part C plan, you are generally allowed to switch to another Medicare Advantage Plan or Part C plan only.

For people with Marketplace/ Obamacare Health insurance

You should go to the Healthcare.gov website and review the plans. Depending on where you live, it will send you to a different site.

What should you do during Open Enrollment?

Review the current plan you have for the following:

  1. If your coverage has changed in key areas
  2. If prices have changed for deductibles, out of pocket maximums, premiums, co-pays, and coinsurance

After taking note of all the changes, review the current plans that are offered by your employer, Medicare, or the Marketplace. Choose the plan that fits your needs best and depending on the situation you can enroll right then and there (Healthcare.gov and Medicare.gov, in particular). Then, instead of camping out for $50-$100 for Black Friday revel in the fact you saved much more.

Disclaimer

*Claim is based on searches in three markets on healthcare.gov. Actual results could be different based on location and type of insurance shopped. Consult a health insurance expert prior to making any decision.

The material and information contained on this website is for general information purposes only. You should not rely upon the material or information as a basis for making any business, legal, or any other decision. While we endeavor to keep the information up to date and correct, Bunny Hops To Wealth makes no representations or warranties of any kind, expressed or implied about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability with respect to the website or the information in the above post. Any reliance you place on such material is therefore strictly at your own risk. Prior to making any health insurance decision, make sure you consult a health insurance expert before making any changes. 

If you would like to read more, please subscribe. If you have any questions, please reach out to us at mrandmrshops@bunnyhopstowealth.com and read our story here.

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