Friday, December 12, 2014

Reader needs more time for tough choice

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.

Madison Hardee of Legal Services of Southern Piedmont,  my go-to resource for things related to the exchange,  adds this helpful note:  "When completing the application, the marketplace asks if you will be losing coverage in the next 60 days.  If so,  it asks you to provide the date you will lose coverage.  If you are dropping your current plan and answer this question,  you should indicate the last day you will have coverage,  rather than the first day you will be without coverage.  For example, consumers who are dropping their current plan and enrolling in a new plan for 2015 by the Dec.  15 deadline should enter 12/31/14 as their last day of coverage in order for coverage in their new plan to become effective on Jan. 1. If a consumer enters 1/1/15 as the first day they do not have coverage, instead of 12/31/14, he or she will receive a Feb. 1 effective date for the new marketplace plan."


Anonymous said...

When does the $2,500 per family cost savings kick in?

Thomas said...

High premiums & high deductibles make Obamacare policies worthless.