By Jim Armstrong
You know that feeling you get when, halfway through the day, you suddenly realize you forgot to send your kid to school wearing something silly for “crazy hat day”? Or that today was the day you’d promised to send in a gift for teacher appreciation week?
It’s pretty close to impossible to remember every appointment and important date without a reminder. That can be frustrating when you’re talking about the little things – but the consequences can be much worse when it comes to the really important stuff.
We’re coming up on one of those important times right now: the next “Open Enrollment” period to purchase health insurance for 2018. Over the past few years, the federal government has led the charge when it comes to reminding people about Open Enrollment; one of the goals of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a., “Obamacare”) is to make sure everyone knows they have the ability to purchase coverage for themselves and their families.
This year, though, the Trump administration has decided to cut spending on Open Enrollment promotion by 90%. That means a lot of people won’t get the message that the time to sign up for health insurance in Rhode Island is November 1 – December 31, 2017. For millions of us, this is not a deadline we want to let slip by. (You might also be hearing about a deadline of December 15th, but that’s only for states whose health insurance exchanges are run by the federal government. Rhode Island runs ours, and the state extended our deadline to December 31st.)
There’s a lot of confusion out there, but make no mistake: Obamacare is alive and well.
And, Rhode Islanders who shop on the state’s health insurance exchange (HealthSource RI) are actually quite lucky. Our state’s exchange has a tremendously positive national reputation for offering affordable options. Some states are seeing massive, double-digit rate increases this year; Rhode Island’s rate increases are among the lowest in the country.
Of course, price is only part of the equation. While most of us want low monthly premiums, it’s critically important to consider your annual deductible, too. Choose the plan that fits you, your family, or your small business the best. There are a number of insurance options available on HealthSource RI for all of those plans.
Even though you may end up purchasing your plan via HealthSource RI’s website or phone number, you should definitely get in touch with the insurance company you’re considering. Call their toll-free number. Get familiar with what they have to offer. Their staff will be able to check if your doctors are in their network and if the prescriptions you need will be covered – and they can answer your other questions, too. Purchasing health insurance can be intimidating; you want to be with a company that makes you feel comfortable.
Your conversation might also reveal that you and your family are eligible for significant discounts (in the form of tax credits or cost-sharing subsidies) if you purchase health insurance through HealthSourceRI. For example, a Rhode Island family of four can earn up to $98,400/year AND STILL QUALIFY for a subsidy and an additional tax credit. In other words, health insurance might end up costing you a whole lot less than you think. But you have to ask!
Most important, though: don’t forget that the Open Enrollment period to sign up for health insurance (in Rhode Island) is November 1 – December 31, 2017.
Jim Armstrong works on the communications team at Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, trying to tell all the remarkable stories happening inside and outside of their building. He and his wife have two young sons – both of whom are getting their flu shots again this year, no matter how much they complain.
About Neighborhood: Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island is a non-profit HMO that was founded in 1993 in partnership with Rhode Island’s Community Health Centers. Currently serving more than 200,000 members statewide, Neighborhood offers plans for individuals and families who qualify for Medicaid and/or Medicare. Neighborhood also offers commercial plans with comprehensive coverage for individuals, families, and small businesses via HealthSourceRI, the state’s health insurance exchange; Neighborhood serves 55% of the R.I. exchange market.