Americans get their annual introduction to the Affordable Care Act, which opens enrollment season on November 1. From that date until January 15, 2023, US adults can choose a health plan that covers critical health expenses for the next calendar year.
Uncle Sam is asking consumers to tune in during open enrollment and keep an eye out for ways to save money on their health insurance policies. This is significant because the average cost of a bronze-level plan is $928, with the average cost of a gold-level plan rising to $1,336.
“It makes sense for consumers to shop around for health insurance, especially since it’s an area with so many savings opportunities,” said Louise Norris, a health policy analyst for HealthInsurance.org, which serves as the ACA’s insurance selection platform. “It’s always a good idea for consumers to evaluate their options, but this year it’s especially important for budget consumers to make sure they’re not leaving anything on the table.”
Tips for saving money when choosing an ACA plan
How should health care consumers approach the ACA rollout, especially with the goal of getting good plan value and saving money in the process? Be picky, health insurance experts said.
“It’s important to shop around and compare health insurance plans, especially after the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which made billions of dollars in tax credits available,” said Kristen Anderson, CEO of Catch.
In 2021, roughly 9 in 10 people qualified for lower ACA health insurance prices, saving an average of $508 a month, Anderson noted.
“These tax credit savings are significant,” she said. “Shop and compare plans to make sure you’re getting the best plan at the lowest possible price.”
To make this process even easier, HealthInsurance.org offers health care consumers some money-saving tips before open enrollment. These strategies should be a priority.
Get ahead of the game. While health insurance customers have until January to choose their plans, there are advantages to starting early.
“Enrolling or making plan changes by Dec. 15 will ensure your coverage is effective Jan. 1,” HealthInsurance.org states in a new tip sheet. “If you enroll after Dec. 15, you won’t have coverage in effect until February, which could leave you temporarily uninsured and cause you to meet your plan’s annual deductible.”
Check for help with out-of-pocket costs. Depending on the health insurance consumer’s annual income, open enrollment may offer assistance in the form of reduced cost-sharing.
“CSR can reduce your out-of-pocket costs,” notes HealthInsurance.org. “The exchange will alert you if you qualify for a reduction based on the income you plan to make.”
US health care consumers can only get a discount if they choose a silver health insurance plan.
“Note that if you view plans in order from lowest to highest premium — the standard in most states — you’ll typically see bronze plans with very low or $0 premiums first,” the platform states. “Use the exchange site filter to look at silver plans first. Then explore other options by checking how your out-of-pocket costs and premiums compare to silver-level plans.”
Choose the plan that meets your unique health needs. How you determine the right policy for you is really based on your needs. Anderson recommends starting this process by asking yourself the following specific questions:
— How many medical visits do you expect in the next year?
— Do you need access to a particular medicine?
— Do you have a specific provider you want covered on the network?
“Remember that all ACA-compliant plans will cover the 10 essential health benefits required for proper coverage,” Anderson said. “However, you can start researching specific plans by ‘tier’ or ‘metal’ of your policy around the frequency of care you expect.”
In general, lower metal levels usually mean you pay less upfront, but you’ll pay more if you unexpectedly get sick or have an accident. “The higher metal tier plans are more expensive up front and are designed to save you more if you need 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 you renew, it’s worth taking five minutes to update your renewal information 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.”