Most of the time, we do our best to pick – and hope we got the best choice.
But what about choosing health insurance?
As of this week, the federal Affordable Care Act (sometimes called “Obamacare”) has added a bunch of new choices into the mix.
Anyone can go online at www.healthcare.gov and shop for a private health insurance plan for themselves and their family or small business.
What’s more, in Michigan and a number of other states, Medicaid plans will soon open to working-class people who haven’t been eligible for that program before.
It’s enough to make you dizzy. But here’s the bottom line:
- If you already have insurance through your job or the government (such as Medicare, Medicaid, military Tricare or the VA), you can probably ignore the new options entirely. The new law, though, means that these plans must provide a certain basic level of coverage for key tests and treatments.
- If you currently buy insurance directly, for yourself, your family or the employees of your small business, you should probably take a look at the new private plans, and compare the coverage and cost to what you have now. Depending on your family size, income, smoking status and age, you may be eligible for rates below what you currently pay – - especially if you qualify for tax credits that give you a discount. The same goes for small businesses that already provide insurance.
- If you don’t have insurance, or you don’t offer it at your small business, you suddenly have a LOT of choices. That includes all those private plans and potential tax credits to pay for them, plus for lower-income folks, access to expanded Medicaid plans in Michigan (and other states). Even if you have a health problem that has kept you from getting insurance in the past, the new law means you must have access to buy coverage without a delay to enroll or a higher cost than others.
If you are comfortable going online and exploring on your own, you can visit www.healthcare.gov to see what plans and credits you can qualify for. Before you choose a plan, just be sure to check that the doctors and hospitals you prefer will accept it. It may be a few days or weeks until that information’s available.
Don’t want to go it alone?
Unlike supermarket or cell phone shopping, you can get help with your health insurance choices.
- The U-M Health System has more than 20 Patient Financial Counselors who have received special training on these new insurance options, and other programs.They are available to help patients, families and visitors — and community members –understand their options and enroll.They can be reached at (877) 326-9155 between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday-Friday, or by email at PFC-Counselors@med.umich.edu . You can make an appointment to visit one in person, at one of many locations at the U-M medical campus or health centers.
- The UMHS Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools (RAHS) also has several trained counselors available to offer by-appointment help. Call 734-998-5795 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, or email UMHS-RAHS@umich.edu.
- Information about which plans will cover UMHS hospital/doctor care is now available on www.uofmhealth.org/ACAplans . We’ve also posted useful info and links on www.uofmhealth.org/newoptions
- Later this fall, UMHS will partner with community organizations to hold free walk-in enrollment events where anyone will be able to get information and guidance. Watch the web site for dates, times and locations.
If you sign up for a new private plan by December 15, your coverage will start January 1. Medicaid enrollment and coverage will have a slightly different timetable.
If you miss the December 15 cutoff, don’t worry – you can still enroll anytime through March 31 in order to get coverage in 2014, and if you have a “life event” such as marriage or a new baby later in the year you can enroll then. Nearly everyone must have health insurance, or pay a penalty, by January 1, 2015.
Having health insurance is good for your physical & financial health, and the health of your family.
Make a choice today to explore your new choices – on your own or with the help of a U-M counselor!
For more than 160 years, the University of Michigan Health System has been a national leader in advanced patient care, innovative research to improve human health and comprehensive education of physicians and medical scientists. The three U-M hospitals have been recognized numerous times for excellence in patient care, including a #1 ranking in Michigan and national rankings in many specialty areas by U.S. News & World Report.