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This December, many consumers have more than just holiday shopping on their to-do lists. Individuals and families who buy their own coverage are also looking at their health insurance options for 2014.
“Many consumers who already have coverage face a big decision right now,” said Laura Etherton, U.S. PIRG health care policy analyst. “Should you renew your existing plan, or switch to a new one?”
It’s an especially important decision for consumers whose insurance company is giving them the option to stay in a “pre-ACA plan” – one that falls below minimum standards under the Affordable Care Act.
In response, U.S. PIRG Education Fund has released Should I Stay or Should I Go?, a new guide for consumers deciding whether to keep their plan or switch to a new one for the New Year.
Top tips from the guide include:
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 new health insurance marketplace. Check out your options at Healthcare.gov or by calling (800) 318-2596.
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 online or to download a paper application, or call (800) 318-2596.
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. Use the checklist in Should I Stay or Should I Go? for help.
5. Know you have until March 31 to sign up for coverage in the new marketplace. Even if you renew your current individual plan now, you can still switch to a plan in your state’s health insurance marketplace as long as you do so by the end of March of 2014.
If you want coverage to begin January first, the deadline to apply through Healthcare.gov is December 23, 2013.
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