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What Are My Health Insurance Options?



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Over the last few years, the health insurance market has been on a rollercoaster ride of changes.  Health plan premiums have continued to spiral upwards.  Participating physicians and hospital networks have continued to shrink.  There is intractable political gridlock in Washington.  One of the casualties of such gridlock is the passing of meaningful health insurance legislation that could resolve some of these exasperating issues.  As things stand now, there is no indication that America's health insurance rollercoaster ride will end anytime soon.

Consequently, finding viable health plan options that fall outside of traditional health insurance (ACA insurance plans), has become increasingly important to consumers.  Following, are a couple of intriguing options that you may not be aware of.


Good to know:  If you have outstanding medical bills, negotiate a payment plan.  Making a payment plan helps you to reduce the upfront cost of your medical bills.  Often, you may be able to work out reduced costs or debt forgiveness with your healthcare provider.  In these cases, you won't be expected to pay the full price of your medical bill.  This also allows you to keep your outstanding medical debt from hitting your credit report.  For consumers interested in protecting their credit and paying their medical bills in a more effective manner, payment plans with debt forgiveness or reduced charges serve as an effective alternative to traditional or standard options.

What's New.

The New Short-Term Health Insurance Plans.

Recent rule changes enacted by the Trump administration have made short-term health insurance plans an increasingly viable option for those seeking an escape from the sky-high Affordable Care Act (ACA) premiums.  One significant change was instituted last August.  The Trump administration repealed Obama-era measures that placed limits on short-term health insurance availability.  Due to this change, short-term health insurance is not so "short" anymore.  Depending upon the state, it is now possible to purchase a short-term health insurance plan with the option to renew ongoing coverage for up to three years.  In addition, there are new short-term plans that feature benefits that are markedly superior to the short-term policies of just a year ago.  While benefits and protections still have a long way to go in order to be comparable to an ACA approved health insurance plan, these new short-term plan benefits are getting closer.  They are now considered a viable option for providing health coverage for an individual or family for the long term.

Consumers appear to have taken notice.  According to research, the number of businesses that plan on offering short-term health insurance plans in 2019 nearly doubled after changes to existing law by the Trump administration took effect.


Good to know:  Pick the right insurance policy.  Take the time and put in the work necessary in order to select the right plan.  In the state of Florida, for example, if you are shopping for a health insurance plan through the Affordable Care Act exchange, you will be offered around 100 plan variations to choose from.  This doesn't even include all of the health plan options that are not on the exchange.  So, regardless of where you live, you will likely find a confusing clutter of choices that you will need to sort through.  In addition, you want a plan that includes your doctors and your medications, plus provides care for any chronic conditions.  Information online can be incomplete or outdated, so call the doctors to make sure they're still participating in plans you're considering.
What's Different.

Healthcare Sharing Plans

Healthcare sharing plans (also known as faith-based health plans), are one of the fastest-growing healthcare options in the nation.  Even so, there is a fair chance that you have never heard of them.

Healthcare sharing plans can provide applicants with effective and affordable health coverage.  These plans operate within a framework that is similar to insurance.  However, from a legal standpoint, a healthcare sharing plan is not insurance.  This distinction affords such plans the ability to function in ways that a traditional insurance plan cannot.  Because Healthcare sharing plans operate within different guidelines than traditional health insurance, what is covered, as well as what manner it is covered, can be quite different.  In many cases, this flexibility can lead to a lower premium amount when compared to a traditional insurance plan featuring similar benefits.  Applicants who meet a healthcare sharing entity's requirements, join a network of other individuals who all pay a monthly fee into the plan.  These funds are distributed to members with medical needs according to the guidelines set out in the plan.  So, a health plan that is not legally insurance, actually behaves very much similar to typical health insurance.  Healthcare sharing entities are less constrained by the bloated administrative costs and inherent industry obligations that traditional health insurance policies are straddled with.  This often translates into a lower premium for a healthcare sharing plan when compared to health insurance plan featuring similar benefits.

Healthcare sharing plans may not be a perfect solution for everyone.  Healthcare sharing plans usually lack several benefits that are required to be covered by Affordable Care Act health insurance plans.  Make certain you understand exactly how your plan works, and what exactly is covered, before you join a Healthcare sharing network.


Good to know:  Keep an eye out for health plan discounts for using fitness technology like Fitness Trackers.  As technology makes data about the state of our health easily available, many insurers are starting to look at using tools like fitness trackers to minimize risk.  Some insurance providers currently offer discounts or incentive plans that will save you money, or provide financial rewards.
Ask a broker about plans that give discounts using new fitness technologies, or plans with health incentives.  One example is "UnitedHealthcare Motion" which offers financial reimbursement incentives of up $1,500 per year.  These types of plans provide good opportunities for savings.  Also, make sure to inquire about the possibilities every year, since these types of programs will become more common over time.
The Traditional.

Affordable Care Act Plans

Affordable Care Act coverage refers to major medical health insurance policy that conforms to the regulations set forth in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  These plans are sold on or off the exchange.  All ACA plans must include coverage for the ten essential benefits with no lifetime or annual benefit maximums.  ACA plans offer the most complete coverage.  The only downside is, if you do not qualify for a subsidy, ACA plans may also be the most expensive option.



Other articles:  Is Short-Term Health Insurance Right For You?
Finding Short-Term Health Insurance.
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