The deadline to make decisions about Jan. 1 coverage on the Affordable Care Act exchange is almost here. A Gaston County reader wants to know if he can take more time, even if it means he misses the Dec. 15 date and has to make a second switch early in 2015.
"I have been trying to compare plans and am running out of time," he wrote Thursday.
The answer is yes. No decision by Dec. 15 means an existing policy automatically renews, but enrollment on the exchange remains open through Feb. 15. Customers can start the year with their auto-renew policies and switch in February (if they make a new choice by Jan. 15) or March.
This reader, who asked not to be named, illustrates why it's so complex. He had a pre-Obamacare policy with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina that he liked, and he kept it as a grandfathered plan in 2014.
In October he got a notice that his monthly payment would rise from $745 to $1,360, an 83 percent hike. It turned out he was among 42,000 North Carolinians who got erroneous notices from Blue Cross, but his corrected rate of $1,062 was still up 43 percent. That motivated him to delve into the exchange, which offers 41 plans for Gaston County residents. Choosing the right one means not only looking at the premium but at the out-of-pocket costs and the network of doctors and hospitals available under each plan. He's also trying to figure out whether he qualifies for the federal tax credits.
"I would like more time to evaluate the options," he said.
Anyone who makes a switch, before or after Dec. 15, should remember the Kaiser Family Foundation's tips to avoid double-billing: Cancel your old policy after you've received confirmation of coverage on the new one. Then keep an eye on your credit card or bank statement to make sure the old payment goes away.