Open Enrollment in Ohio for the Health Insurance Exchange begins on November 1st for new effective dates. However, SEP exceptions are available the entire year. This federally-facilitated Marketplace allows you to buy your 2021 private individual, family or small business healthcare without risking denial for underwriting reasons. Pre-existing conditions are covered, and no waiting periods or surcharges will be imposed. Exchange enrollment was higher than last year, despite recent Medicaid expansion.
The effective date of coverage for these policies is typically January 1. If you apply after December 15th with a qualifying life event (QLE), it is possible your effective date will be later than January 1st. Although the .Gov website has experienced major delays and glitches in previous years, our website offers identical rates and we have had no software issues. We also provide an easier enrollment process that will save hours of time and frustration, since we handle the bulk of the work for you. Anthem Blue Cross has returned to the Buckeye State in selected counties.
NOTE: Open Enrollment for Seniors (Age 65 and older) always starts earlier. Medicare Supplement and Advantage plans (that replace original Medicare) are popular Medigap options that can reduce out-of-pocket expenses, such as deductibles and copays. Part D prescription drug coverage is also offered, although sometimes included in Advantage contracts. An additional enrollment period takes place when you reach age 65, regardless of the time of year. Many companies (UnitedHealthcare, Cigna, Aetna, Colonial Penn, Gerber, Medico, USAA, and Humana) offer Medigap plans to Seniors, but not private individual coverage if you are under age 65.
Three New Companies
Three companies began participating several years ago. They were UnitedHealthcare (UHC), Aetna, and Premier. Premier serviced the Dayton area and surrounding counties, and also offered Senior products. UHC has offered short-term coverage for many years under the brand name of “Golden Rule.” UHC rates were very attractive, and they previously offered popular HSA plans. However, these three carriers are not currently offering Marketplace coverage. Group and Senior plans are not impacted and non-compliant options are limited, but available. NOTE: Several carriers may be returning in 2022, depending on the Administration’s guidelines.
In most areas of Montgomery, Warren and Greene Counties, Ambetter’s pricing is competitive. Typically, they offer one of the cheapest office-visit copay plans in the area, and the network-coverage includes nearby Butler and Clermont Counties. Several of their least expensive plans are Essential Care 1, Essential Care 2, and Essential Care 10. Deductibles do not apply to most office visits, and many prescriptions are covered with only copays. CareSource also offers a combination of comprehensive coverage and inexpensive rates. Popular plans include CareSource Marketplace Bronze, CareSource Marketplace HSA Eligible Bronze, and CareSource Marketplace Low Premium Silver.
Aetna is also one of the largest carriers in the US and previously offered several low-cost options in four other states. For example, their Bronze-tier “$20 Copay” option was one of the most affordable comprehensive options that was previously offered in the Columbus area (and Franklin County). In earlier years, they featured a low $20 copay (only) on primary care physician visits without having to meet the deductible. It was a “point of service” managed care plan.
Aetna, however, only offers Group and Senior plans in the Buckeye State, although private individual coverage may return. Aetna MA plans include Medicare Premier, Medicare Value, Medicare Assure 1, Premier Plus 1, Premier Plus 2, Premier 1, and Premier 2. Oscar offers very competitively-priced plans (including an HSA) in the Columbus and Cleveland areas. The Cleveland Clinic is included in the network.
It is possible that Aetna will begin offering coverage in additional states within the next several years, depending when (or if) specific changes are made to the Affordable Care Act legislation. Currently, their network is utilized in National General’s short-term plans, which provide 12 months of inexpensive temporary benefits. Although benefits are capped at $1 million per year, the National General plan provides a popular alternative to healthy applicants that don’t qualify for a federal subsidy. Urgent Care and telemed visits are covered with only a copay, and without a deductible to meet.
What Happens If I Miss The Deadline?
Even though Open Enrollment ends, there are still low-cost plans that will provide quality coverage. And actually, many of the top-rated companies (such as UnitedHealthcare) underwrite these plans. For example, short-term coverage, which can be kept up to one year, provides valuable benefits until the next OE period at the end of the year. The application is short and takes less than 20 minutes to complete. If you need the policy quickly, your wait will likely be less than 24 hours. The policy can also be canceled at any time.
Additional products (critical illness, disability, life, dental, and vision) can be purchased at any time. National General (see above) utilizes the Aetna PPO network, and is another popular short-term option. Companion Life underwrites indemnity plans, which have no network provider restrictions. Coverage is available with benefit amounts as low as $100,000, and the simplified application takes about 15 minutes to complete.
Temporary plans have become extremely popular with consumers who do not want to participate in the Marketplace and prefer to purchase simple major medical coverage that provides “no frills” benefits. Office visit and major medical benefits are available for up to one year. You can also re-apply for new coverage, or select a different carrier and policy. Many riders can be added to help reduce out-of-pocket costs of high inpatient hospital bills.
“Special” enrollment periods are offered if you qualify for several exclusions. These are discussed later in the article. For example, if you lose existing coverage from a divorce, move to a different service area, leave your employer, or adopt a child, you are generally eligible to apply. When COBRA benefits end, an approved qualifying life event (QLE) is granted. You may enroll in a plan without underwriting approval. Native Americans can enroll throughout the entire year.
Other benefit-specific policies may be ideal for keeping premiums within your budget after the deadline passes. The range of coverage will vary. First-dollar plans, limited-benefit and more comprehensive policies can be easily compared and designed specifically to fit your needs. Simply ask us about them! However, if a policy does not comply with ACA guidelines, although you will not be assessed a penalty, critical benefits may be lacking or missing. Critical-illness and disease-specific (cancer, for example) contracts are more suitable for supplemental benefits, and not primary coverage. Property and casualty products can be purchased at any time.
What Impact Does The US Presidency Have On Healthcare?
There have been very few changes in the last four years that impact current plans. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) legislation has been slightly tweaked, but otherwise has remained in tact. The major change has been the elimination of the mandate (and required 2.5% penalty) to purchased qualified healthcare coverage.
Additional changes may become effective in 2022. The enhancement of HSA plans, and the re-introduction of cheaper major medical policy options is likely. However, major components of the ACA Legislation will remain, including guaranteed insurability, covered pre-existing conditions, and children allowed to remain on a parent’s policy until age 26. It is also likely that individual states will be provided a bigger role in policy-making, instead of the federal government. 12-month short-term coverage is now available, and offers an attractive cheap option.
More customized high-deductible plans, along with HSA enhancements may also be developed. Additional companies are expected to re-join the Ohio health insurance market. Aetna and UnitedHealthcare, who once offered private individual plans in all counties, may begin offering plans again in 2021. Additional carriers, including Humana and Medical Mutual, could possibly increase their service area. Cigna and Kaiser are two additional large carriers that could also consider offering private coverage. Senior Medigap coverage has not been impacted.
What If I Already Have Coverage?
You are not required to have “qualified” health insurance that meets specific requirements including the inclusion of “essential health benefits.” Previously, if you owned a plan that was issued on or before March 23, 2010, you could probably keep it (if you wish) and would not have to change. This was covered under the “grandfathering of plans” clause. NOTE: Group plans do not qualify for grandfathering benefits. Also, very few grandfathered plans are still active.
Your employer or existing company was able to verify its “grandfather” status. However, you still had the option of purchasing a new Marketplace policy. For example, if quickly obtaining maternity benefits was important, terminating a grandfathered policy might have saved you thousands of dollars since it may not have been covered under the old policy. We search for the option that provides the least amount of out-of-pocket expenses, and best covers maternity, and prenatal costs. Grandfathered plans have now all been replaced.
You may also receive correspondence that you have to replace that plan. If you receive a letter or email indicating that the existing policy will terminate, please contact us immediately, so we can review your options, which may include extending the termination date of the contract. Each carrier has the discretion to either continue or terminate private plans. Typically, you are notified in September or October so you have ample time to select a policy effective January 1st. It is not unusual for policies to be replaced by similar plans with very few changes.
Even if preventive benefits (which are mandatory) are not included and pre-existing conditions are not covered, it still may qualify as a grandfathered contract. If it is an individual policy, you will have options that allow you to retain coverage. Typically, you are notified of the status. In some situations, you can renew the policy for an extended period of time. However, as new plans are developed and introduced, many older plans are replaced. If you recently retired, it is likely that you do not have a grandfathered plan.
What Companies Are Offering Coverage?
Nine carriers offer policies on the Marketplace. Available companies include: Ambetter, Anthem Blue Cross, Aultcare, CareSource, Medical Mutual, Molina, Paramount, Oscar, and SummaCare. No carrier offers coverage in all counties, and many companies only offer plans in selected counties (Anthem and Oscar). If you move from one county to another, it is possible you will have to change plans.
NOTE: Miami Valley Hospital (pictured below) and its many facilities, are integral to Premier’s Senior provider network. Additional hospitals include Good Samaritan, Atrium Medical, Upper Valley Medical Center, Dayton Children’s, Cincinnati Children’s, and Tri-Health. Premier offers very attractive plans to its employees, but not through the Marketplace or Medigap programs. Premier Virtual Care can treat and evaluate conditions through a video chat. The service is available 24/7.
What Are The Cheapest Available Ohio Health Insurance Policies?
Catastrophic contracts are often the least expensive option, but you must be under age 30 to apply, and they are not eligible for a federal subsidy. However, the plans listed below can be purchased by anyone, and a subsidy will apply (if you meet income requirements). You can also request Off- Exchange quotes from participating carriers.
MedMutual Market HMO 8150
MedMutual Market HMO 6900 HSA
MedMutual Market HMO 5250 HSA
Molina Core Care Bronze 1
Molina Core Care bronze 2
CareSource Marketplace Bronze
CareSource Marketplace HSA Bronze
Anthem Bronze Pathway X HMO 8150
Anthem Bronze Pathway X HMO 6000
Ambetter Essential Care 1
Ambetter Essential Care 2 (HSA)
Oscar Simple Bronze
Oscar Classic Bronze
Oscar Saver Bronze
Paramount Bronze 2 HRA
SummaCare Bronze 6750 HSA
SummaCare Bronze 8150
Aultcare Bronze 8150 Select
Aultcare Bronze 7900 Select
What Are The Most Expensive Available Plans (All Companies) That Offer The Most Comprehensive Coverage?
MedMutual Market HMO 2000/25
Oscar Classic Gold
SummaCare Gold 750
Ambetter Secure Care 1
AultCare Gold 350
AultCare Gold 1200
What New Company Should I Consider?
Oscar offers extremely competitive pricing if you live in one of five Northeastern Ohio counties: Cuyahoga, Medina, Lorain, Summit, and Lake. Additional counties in the Columbus service area include Franklin, Licking, Delaware, and Fairfield. Their joint venture with the Cleveland Clinic offers improved scheduling, patient care, and communication. Additional counties are expected to be added to the network. Oscar also offers very competitively-priced HSA plans. Typically, several physician assistants, and the primary-care doctor, join a team of professionals that manage the healthcare that is provided to the policyholder.
An additional fairly-new company available in the Dayton area, and other counties, is Ambetter (affiliated with Buckeye Health). Their prices are very attractive when compared to other major companies, and several of their policies include dental, vision, or both extra benefits. Often, copays and deductibles are small, especially their Silver-tier contracts. Centene Corporation is the parent company of Ambetter, who operates in several states other than the Buckeye State. Molina is also a carrier with very attractive rates, and also features a network that expands in many additional parts of the US.
How Do I Apply?
There are several ways to apply for a policy. We provide a direct link (see below) that allows you to answer the questions online. We can assist you with any of the questions and also help calculate your federal subsidy that will lower your rate (if you qualify). Since we are local and experienced, we are more likely to be able to provide you with quick and accurate answers to your questions. And all of the participating companies are available for individual or family protection.
The federal website is also available. Prices will be exactly the same, although you will have to navigate through the process with limited assistance. Inexperienced “navigators” are available throughout limited sections of Ohio. However, they may not be licensed and they are also prohibited from making specific plan recommendations. Recently, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, who had previously received federal funding, realized they were ineligible to act as navigators since they negotiate with insurers. In the future, we expect the federally-funded navigator program to be completely eliminated or drastically changed.
This is why we highly encourage you to use our direct link. You get a dual benefit of the lowest prices and live expert advice. And the amount of time required to activate a plan is much lower than the .gov website. You also will be serviced by a local Agency with 37 years of experience, instead of a toll-free phone number located outside of Ohio.
The subsidy takes the form of an instant tax credit and is based on your household income. For example, a 50 year-old that earns less than $45,000 per year, will receive aid. Of course, for a married couple without children, the amount (about $65,000) is substantially more. Under 400% of the Federal Poverty Level is used as a benchmark. Policies are referred to as “Metal” since the four choices are Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze.
The bigger the size of your family, the larger the subsidy. For example, a family of three, including one child (assuming ages in the mid-40s), would receive a subsidy of approximately $365 per month with $50,000 of household income. However, with two additional children (total of three), Medicaid-eligibility is likely. It pays to have a big family under if you qualify for federal aid.. We can calculate your personal subsidy and eligibility in less than a minute. Call or email us any time.
NOTE: If your income is too low, you may have to enroll for a Medicaid plan, since a subsidy would not be offered. When Medicaid requirements expanded to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level, many households suddenly became eligible. For example, a single person that earns about $16,000 is eligible. The approximate limit for a family of three is $27,300, and $33,000 for a family of four. CHIP benefits are available to children.
There Are No Medical Questions. Right?
That is correct. The application asks information regarding where you live, your age, additional dependents, and the type of plan you are applying for. But you will not be asked about your health or any pre-existing condition issues. Your smoking status is the only personal criteria used to determine the rate. Your health, credit, height/weight, and prior conditions have no impact on prices. Also, if you suddenly develop a condition or sustain an injury during the enrollment process, it will not impact your prices or plan options.
NOTE: Temporary plans require medical underwriting, and several questions will be asked. It is possible to be declined for short-term benefits, or not be able to renew a prior plan because of changes in health.
Is Open Enrollment The Only Time I Can Buy A Policy?
Actually, there are designated “special enrollment periods” when you are also allowed to apply for Ohio Health Marketplace coverage, even if it is outside of the specified time frame earlier mentioned. Assuming you are a qualified individual, some of the events that qualify for these special periods include:
Losing “minimum essential benefits.”
A newly classified citizen.
The result of a permanent move.
Gaining a dependent or becoming a dependent through adoption, birth or marriage.
A major violation of your qualified health plan can be proven.
An error by the Exchange causes an individual to erroneously enroll or be terminated from their qualified plan.
You can buy a “short-term” policy (mentioned above) at any time during the year. The premium will be very low since it covers mostly catastrophic events. However, it may not fulfill the requirements of Obamacare and subsequently, a special tax (discussed) will be imposed. Also, the maximum payout will be between $250,000 and $1 million, instead of unlimited benefits. Typically, preventative benefits are not covered at 100%, and non-preferred brand drugs will not be fully covered. Although office visit and prescription drug benefits are available, often, a rider is must be added to utilize benefits.
However, since the policy is only kept for less than 12 months, these amounts should be sufficient. You can synchronize the beginning of your personal coverage to coincide with the termination of your short-term plan so there is no lapse in benefits. However, when your policy renews, you will have to medically qualify again. It is anticipated that this type of plan will become more flexible in 2018, with perhaps more companies underwriting the risk.
What Is The Penalty If I Don’t Purchase Coverage?
There is no penalty. Beginning in 2019, it was eliminated.
The penalty was actually a tax, and millions of Americans ignored the new law to pay the tax, despite the risk. In 2014, the tax (or fine) was $95 per adult and half of that amount per child with a family cap of $285. However, if 1% of your family income exceeded the previous calculated amount, than you paid the 1%. For example, if your household income was $70,000, you paid a $700 tax. Because of numerous glitches in the federal website, additional time has been provided to sign up for coverage.
Four years ago, the tax jumped to $325 per adult and $162.50 for each child with a family maximum of $975. However, the 1% household income calculation doubled to 2%. Thus, a household income of $80,000 resulted in a $1,600 tax. However, $40,000 of income resulted in an $800 tax, which is less than the family maximum when adding penalties individually.
Last year, things got dicey. The adult and child charge changed to $695 and $347.50 respectively with a maximum family charge of $2085. The household calculation was 2.5%. So, in the previous example, an $80,000 family income would pay a tax of $2,000 for not purchasing qualified Ohio health insurance coverage. However, if coverage was in effect for a portion of the year, the penalty was reduced accordingly.
Important Note: The IRS has announced it will end the practice of not processing federal tax returns of filers that may not have compliant health insurance. The Trump Administration requested that this action be taken, to soften the financial impact of the Obamacare legislation. Although tax returns will continue to be processed, the penalty for not having coverage is still applicable, and consumers are still required to pay the tax. Only new legislation can eliminate the tax.
Is Single-Payer Universal Healthcare Coming To The US?
Universal healthcare is a system in many countries where all citizens are covered under the same (or very similar) type of policy. Benefits are fairly comprehensive and typically there is no cost to consumers since the government pays for all treatment. The concern of many persons is the quality of treatment and the length of time it takes to receive this treatment. Usually, if you are healthy, you don’t mind this type of delivery system. But if you need treatment, delays are expected. Often, knee replacements, and other non-life-threatening operations can have long waiting periods.
Increased taxes usually fund this type of medical coverage, and that would not be a popular option here in the US. In some countries, extra money is raised by citizens that wish to purchase additional services. Also, many type of hybrid plans are available that combine aspects of private and government-provided treatment. In Canada, for example, coverage is publicly funded, with each Province administering plan options. All legal citizens automatically qualify.
Our political landscape is hard to predict and the Presidential election results will play a major role in forming the direction of our healthcare. Just look at 2008. But for now, the combination of private companies and limited government involvement will probably continue for awhile. With Donald Trump defeating Hillary Clinton, the chances of a single-payer system being implemented have greatly diminished. President Trump has indicated that expansion of HSAs and cross-state selling are likely to occur.
Does Medicaid Expansion In Ohio Affect Me?
If your household income is less than 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (About $16,000 for an individual and $32,000 for a family), each state has the option to offer Medicaid coverage to those persons. Otherwise, Medicaid is available at the 100% level. Here in the Buckeye state, the topic of expansion has been a very contentious topic and was finally approved.
The new reform law had the support of Governor John Kasich. Almost 300,000 persons became eligible. But it could become very costly in later years, which worries many congressmen. Also, the Cleveland Clinic, the biggest Medicaid provider in the state, has eliminated part of its workforce because of anticipated Medicaid cuts. Another variable is that every two years, any previous changes can be voted on again.
NOTE: It is possible that because of a substantial drop in your income, Medicaid eligibility may be available, while in previous years it was not. For example, a reduction in hours at work, a temporary layoff, or early retirement could result in either a larger subsidy, or a low enough household Federal Poverty Level ratio to satisfy Medicaid requirements.
Please contact us if you have any questions regarding applying for coverage during Open Enrollment, or the Ohio Health Insurance Exchange plans. We make it easy to compare prices. Also, keep in mind that Medicare is different than Medicaid, and their Open Enrollments are different.
After President Obama’s press conference yesterday, the Dept. Of Insurance announced they will support the continuation of non-grandfathered policies for individuals and small businesses. However, each company can determine which plans will be eligible for this change. This means that many consumers, who may have been forced to terminate contracts because they were not Affordable Care Act-compliant, may be able to keep those plans. Yes….It is confusing.
About 40,000 Ohio consumers have enrolled in the Exchange so far. Although we have helped many customers with the enrollment process, we can’t take credit for all of the 40,000 applicants! About 30,000 persons have been eligible for a subsidy and the most common plan is the “Silver” option because of the lower deductible features.
17 days remain in the Open Enrollment, although consumers can continue to buy coverage after April 1. However, unless a specific exception is granted, a subsidy will not apply to the premium, and key benefits (maternity, for example), may not be included. Nancy Sebelius also visited our state in an attempt to help push final enrollment numbers. With a few weeks left, about 80,000 persons have signed up, which is far below the initial predictions.
The Obama administration has extended the enrollment period by about two weeks for applicants that start the application process but are unable to complete it. There is now a small box (blue) that can be checked that will extend the Open Enrollment. This special period will apply to both online and phone applications and it will allow consumers to avoid the tax that is imposed for not having coverage.
Price projections for effective dates (OE begins November 15th) have been released. Companies are actively submitting their rate increase (and decrease) requests to the Department Of Insurance. UnitedHealthcare will be joining the Marketplace after sitting out last year. Anthem has requested price increases of about 8% (average) on their plans. Bronze policies may not go up as much.
Prices have not been released yet, although we expect to see initial numbers within the next month. For persons that need coverage between now and the end of the year, and you don’t qualify for a “special enrollment exception,” temporary coverage (off-Exchange) is available. Prices are quite low because of benefit restrictions.
Premier Health will offer plans for the Marketplace. Based in Dayton, they will serve Montgomery County and the surrounding area in their first venture. Plan selection will be limited, although both under-65 and Medigap options will be offered. Miami Valley Hospital and its vast network will be part of the provider list.
It’s here! Open Enrollment has arrived. So far, the process is running smoothly. Our direct link allows you to get a free quote, compare, and enroll in 10-20 minutes. If you need help, contact us. Aetna and UnitedHealthcare made it official by offering Exchange plans. UnitedHealthcare has some very competitive prices in many counties.
A list of medical conditions covered by Obamacare is available. Simply submit a written (email is fine) request. Regardless if you have prior coverage, once your enrolled policy is approved, you can use preventive and elective benefits without waiting. January 1 effective dates are still possible.
The deadline for securing a February 1 effective date ended yesterday. Any applications or enrollments submitted between today and February 15th will receive a March 1 effective date. The exceptions are Special Enrollments that allow you to purchase coverage at any time.
The American Lung Association concluded a study that determines that the vast majority of Ohio Marketplace plans do not provide the required tools and benefits that assist consumers to stop smoking. The ACA legislation mandates that carriers provide specific smoking cessation drugs (and counseling) at no cost, subject to certain provisions. The Buckeye State has one of the highest percentage of smokers in the US.
The initial rate filings have been received by the DOI. Most companies will be increasing premiums, although many plans will not see dramatic rises. Listed below are the projected price hikes for several popular policies. The higher prices must be approved before they are actually implemented.
37.6% – Assurant (Time) Individual QHP
19.6% – UnitedHealthcare Off-Exchange
17.8% – Aetna HMO Small Group
17.3% – HealthSpan Individual Plans
16.9% – Medical Mutual Individual Plans
What does Donald Trump’s win mean for Ohio health insurance rates? As previously mentioned, a repeal of Obamacare is probable, but a new replacement will have to be created first. Since this will likely take between 3-9 months, major changes may not be implemented until 2019, although 2018 remains a possibility. Senior MedSup coverage should not be impacted by the Trump win.
Open Enrollment has ended. Will there be another OE period next year? It’s premature to speculate, since although changes will occur, we don’t know the magnitude or timing of these changes.
Although prices increased, higher federal subsidies have resulted in lower premiums for many persons over age 50.