In an interview with The Washington Post, President Donald Trump reiterated his campaign promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something he calls “much better.” But right now, the ACA is still the law of the land and is providing healthcare coverage for nearly 20 million individuals, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). And despite what you may have heard, you can still sign up through January 31, 2017.
According to former Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, over 6.4 million individuals have already enrolled to get coverage for 2017. This is a 400,000 individual increase over this time last year. In fact, 670,000 people enrolled on the last day of open enrollment in December 2016 for a January 1, 2017 start date. This number includes those who are self-employed, underemployed, or their job does not offer health coverage. It has been a lifesaver for individuals and families who do not have coverage, and those who have pre-existing conditions such as cancer, and cannot find affordable care.
Do It NOW
Don’t assume you are not eligible, or that you can’t afford it. The tax breaks are still in place.
If you cannot afford a policy on the ACA exchange, you may be eligible under expanded Medicaid if you live in a state that offers it. Not all states offer expanded Medicaid coverage, which will allow coverage for those living at or below 137 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. And even if your state does not participate in the expansion, they may have offered up an alternative plan. Do your homework.
Understand the Process
It isn’t terribly easy to sign up, and selecting your plan may also prove challenging. However, there may be places in your community where you can get assistance. Plan on spending at least 90 minutes wading through the process. It helps to be thinking about what kind of healthcare needs you and your family have. If you are dealing with chronic conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, that require management, you may want to select a plan that has lower out-of-pocket costs, but has higher plan premiums.
After You’re Covered
Pay your premiums on time. According to Healthcare.gov, if you miss a payment, after a grace period, you will be dropped from your plan and find yourself with no coverage. HHS reported that millions of people were enrolled last year, yet a significant number were dropped from coverage because they couldn’t afford to pay the premiums, or because they couldn’t afford to pay the premiums and pay the deductibles.
Use It Before You Lose It
Once you get coverage, or if you already have it, use it—right away. Because of the looming possibility of a repeal, and the uncertainty of what comes next, load your care up in the first quarter of 2017. Beat the clock. Set up your doctor visits, screenings, flu and other vaccinations, preventative care, and any procedures you know you need, now. If you have been putting off an expensive joint replacement, get it now. If you need to see a specialist, do it now.
Speaking of Doctors
When you select your plan, see if your physician is a part of it. So many people choose a plan based on cost alone. One of the key questions to ask is if your doctor is involved.
And if you have to switch doctors, it is important to select and see a doctor right away, even if you aren’t sick. Have you ever tried to get into a new doctor and have to wait months before you can be seen?
It will take a little while for policymakers to dismantle the ACA, so take advantage of what is available to you as soon as possible. Be proactive in managing your chronic illnesses now.
Get Your Prescriptions Filled
If you are counting on your insurance plan to cover your prescriptions, see if you can purchase three months or more, instead of one.
But I Have Coverage Through My Employer
Actually some of the same tips hold true if you have health insurance coverage through your employer. Healthcare coverage is probably going to change for everyone. A change in coverage for pre-existing conditions could mean that your premiums rise, or that your coverage gets reduced for the same payments.
The Tax Man Cometh…
One of the greatest critiques of ACA, even from those who have supported it, is that it penalizes those who do not have health insurance. If you don’t have healthcare coverage now either through an employer subsidized plan or a government program such as Medicaid or Medicare, you must enroll in a qualified plan by January 31, or you could be subject to an IRS penalty of 2.5 percent of your household income or $695 per individual and $347.50 per child.