Open Enrollment Tips, Part 1: An Educated Consumer Is Our Best Customer

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Some of you--of a certain age--may remember the Sy Syms commercial, with the tagline, "An Educated Consumer is Our Best Customer." Well, what's true for buying clothes is even more true (100 times more important, probably!) for choosing health insurance. 

So here are a few things to know, if you are shopping for health insurance. 

1. If you are very low income, you may be eligible for Medicaid. If you think you are eligible for Medicaid, do the MIBridges Medicaid application. Don't assume the Marketplace will send you there correctly--it is supposed to, but the two systems are not well-calibrated. (We help with those applications, too.)

2. If you had a plan last year, don't let it auto-renew. Spend the hour it requires to assess everything again. Provide revised income estimates, check your dependents, update your address. Most importantly, the plans have changed. In some cases, they have changed A LOT. 

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Make sure you are aware of which doctors or health systems are in-network or out of network for any plan that you choose. These networks can also change between plan years. 

Because costs are calibrated for tax credits based on the second-lowest cost silver plan, when the costs for that plan change (and this year they changed a lot!), the tax credits change a lot too. But if you were eligible for subsidies before, and your income is similar, you will pay the same or less--but you may need or want to change plans.

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3. If your income is a bit higher than Medicaid, but still under 200% of the poverty level ($24,120 for a single person, $49,200 for a family of 4) you will probably find the best deals with the Silver plans. (Probably. You may still want to compare the gold and bronze plans as well.)

4. If your income is between 200% and 400% of the poverty level ($24,120-$48,240 for a single person, $49,200-$98,400 for a family of 4), it is highly likely that you will find the gold and bronze plans more appealing. Gold plans, on average, will cover 80% of your medical costs and Bronze plans, on average, will cover 60% of your medical costs. 

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Explainer: The Trump administration made some last-minute changes removing cost-sharing subsidies, which are only applied to silver plans. Because of this, the cost of silver plans went up more than the cost of gold or bronze plans. But because tax credits are calculated based on silver plans, your tax credit will likely go further on the bronze or gold plans. If you want the details, read this

5. If your income is over 400% of the poverty level ($48,240 for a single person, $98,400 for a family of 4), you will not qualify for tax credits. But you might find better deals off of the Marketplace. Work with an in-person or online insurance broker, and make sure you are choosing from ACA-compliant plans. These should be marked as Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum. If they are ACA-compliant, they will have the same essential benefits, but the cost may be less expensive.

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Washtenaw Health Plan staff will answer your questions and help you figure it out.  It's complicated.  Different people in a family may get different coverage. Parents may qualify for the Marketplace, kids may qualify for Medicaid or MIChild.  An older couple might have Medicare, Medicaid and/or Marketplace.  No situation is too complex, no question should go unanswered.  We'll help sort it out.  

Call 734-544-3030 or walk-in to 555 Towner St. Ypsilanti from 9 am to 4 pm Monday through Friday.  

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