Americans get their annual introduction to the Affordable Care Act open enrollment season on Nov. 1. From that date through January 15, 2023, U.S. adults can choose a healthcare plan that covers critical health costs for the next calendar year.
Uncle Sam is asking consumers to get on board during open enrollment and to keep an eye out for ways to save cash on their health insurance policies. That’s important, as the average cost of a bronze-tier plan stands at $928, with the average price of a gold-tier plan rising to $1,336.
“It makes sense for consumers to shop around for health insurance, especially since this is an area with so many opportunities for savings,” said Louise Norris, a health policy analyst for HealthInsurance.org, which serves as the ACA insurance selection platform “It’s always a good idea for consumers to evaluate their options, but this year, it’s particularly important for budget-conscious consumers to ensure they’re not leaving anything on the table.”
Tips for Saving Money on ACA Plan Choices
How should healthcare consumers approach the ACA rollout, especially with the goal of getting a good value on a plan and saving money in the process? Be choosy, health insurance experts said.
“It’s important to shop and compare health insurance plans, especially after the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which made billions of dollars of tax credits available,” said Kristen Anderson, Catch chief executive officer.
In 2021, approximately 9 in 10 people qualified for lower ACA health insurance prices, saving an average of $508 per month, Anderson noted.
“These tax credit savings are significant,” she said. “Shop and compare plans to be confident that you’re getting the best plan at the lowest possible price.”
To make that process even easier, HealthInsurance.org offers healthcare consumers some money-saving tips in advance of open enrollment. These strategies should be a priority.
Get ahead of the game. While health insurance customers have until January to pick their plans, there are advantages to starting early.
“Enrolling or making plan changes by Dec. 15 will ensure your coverage takes effect January 1,” HealthInsurance.org stated in a new tip sheet. “If you enroll after Dec. 15, you won’t have coverage in force until February, which could leave you temporarily uninsured and put you behind on meeting your plan’s annual deductible.”
Check for out-of-pocket spending aid. Dependent on a health insurance consumer’s annual income, open enrollment may offer help in the form of a cost-sharing reduction.
“A CSR can lower your out-of-pocket costs,” HealthInsurance.org noted. “The exchange will alert you if you’re eligible for the reduction based on the income you project.”
U.S. healthcare consumers can only get the reduction if a silver health insurance plan is selected.
“Keep in mind that if you view the plans ordered from lowest to highest premium — the default in most states — you’ll generally see bronze plans first, with very low or $0 premiums,” the platform stated. “Use the exchange site’s filter to look at silver plans first. Then look at the other options, checking to see how out-of-pocket costs and premiums compare with the silver-level plans.”
Pick the plan that meets your unique healthcare needs. How you define the right policy for you is really based on your needs. Anderson recommends starting that process by asking yourself these specific questions:
— How many medical visits do you expect in the year ahead?
— Do you need access to a specific medication?
— Do you have a specific provider that you want to be covered in-network?
“Remember, all ACA-compliant plans will cover the 10 essential health benefits needed for proper coverage,” Anderson said. “However, you can start exploring specific plans by “tier” or the “metal” of your policy around the frequency of care that you anticipate.”
By and large, lower metal tiers, typically mean you’re paying less upfront, but will pay more if you are unexpectedly ill or experience an accident. “Higher metal tier plans are more expensive up-front and designed to save you more if you require more medical care,” Anderson said.
Pay attention to tax credits. If you already have a marketplace health insurance plan, know that you can renew your coverage automatically.
“Before renewing, it’s worth spending five minutes to update information for your renewal for one important reason: tax credits,” Anderson added. “Make sure you’re getting the lowest possible price, and update your information to check for savings.”