Open enrollment for individual health insurance also known as Obamacare will begin from Nov 1st Jan 15th unless extended by the government.
Medicare Open enrollment will go from October 15th to Dec 7th.
This is the time of year when people usually shop for health insurance and the first place that everyone goes to is google. There are many dangers of going to uncle google for your health insurance and I am going to go over a few things you need to watch out for if you decide to take that route.
I will also share what I believe is the best way to shop for health insurance. So let’s get started.
It is said that if you want to bury a secret, the safest place would be on the 2nd or 3rd page of google because very few people ever go past the 1st page. And who is usually on the page of any search?
First, It is usually the paid advertisers or sometimes some clever marketing companies who knowhow to do search engine optimization and also may have a lead generation site.
If you have ever made a mistake of putting your name and number on any of those sites, you may have found your phone ringing off the hook with different agents trying to sell you their plans.
With all due respect to all those agents. They are only trying to make a living and in some cases may have a good health plan to offer you but that is not where you want to start your search.
You need to realize that right now there are many types of individual health plans including association plans, short term plans, hospital surgical plans, scheduled benefit plans, health share ministry plans and of course the Obamacare plans which are offered thru the health insurance marketplace in most states.
And all of these plans come with some pros and cons but the best place to start would be to find a health insurance agent or a broker who represents many different insurance companies on and off the exchanges and can help you choose the right plan for you because it is way easy to mess it up if you try to do it yourself and what you don’t know can really hurt you.
It's a complicated process to try and do it yourself because if you don’t know all of the rules, you can disqualify yourself from potential savings from the tax credits under Obamacare or choose a health plan that very few doctors accept in your area.
The 2nd place people often go to is directly to an insurance company which seems like a good idea, but think about it. If you called company A, would they recommend any of the plans of their competitors? Probably not. That’s not what they are paid to do. They can only tell you about their products. But an independent who represents most of the companies can recommend based on your specific needs.
The 3rd place people often go to for their health insurance is directly to the health insurance marketplace. And if you have ever done that, you know how frustrating that can be waiting on hold for long periods of time and the application process that seems to take forever.
Now think about this. How is the person working at the health insurance marketplace going to know about all of the health plans in all of the states where they serve? Heck, I’ve been doing this for 30 years and we focus primarily on the state of GA and even then we struggle to keep up with all of the changes.
Sometimes those changes include negotiations with hospitals, doctor groups and insurance companies.
Plus, once your enrollment is done, there is no way for you to contact that enrollment agent again with any questions. You are on your own!
Remember how I said people rarely go to the second page of google?
Well.. insurance companies have also realized this little secret and many companies intentionally load up their cheapest plans to show up on the first page of the search results and many times, these are newer companies with their smallest networks of doctors and hospitals.
Last open enrollment, some of the plans and companies we had recommended were on the 4th and 5th page of the search results because based on our experience, that's what made sense. Plus, we also had many new insurance companies enter the GA marketplace. When they are new in an area, many times they haven’t had a chance to build up their networks of doctors and hospitals so we want to stay mindful to this especially for individuals who may have chronic health conditions and need to make sure their doctors and prescriptions are covered by that plan. For healthy individuals who rarely go to the doctor, that may not be as important.
An experienced agent can help you cut thru the clutter and make it easier for you. Often, you may have to upload immigration verification and income verification documents to the health insurance marketplace. Your agent can also help you do that or show you how you can do that on your own.
The way I see it is like this, Most of us have a primary care doctor, a dentist, a CPA, and also your trusted mechanic. Why not develop a relationship with a good health insurance agent who can guide you thru this process once a year? Keeping in mind that some of the insurance premiums some of us are paying nowadays are high as mortgage payments.
And It doesn’t look like any of this is going to get any easier any time soon.
So how do you find an experienced agent? Well, if you are going to go to uncle google, one suggestion would be to search for health insurance agent near me, make sure they are in your area and check out their google reviews, visit their website to get a feel for their business and to find out how long they have been in practice.
The idea is to find someone who is been in the business for several years, represents many companies on and off exchange and is available to help you through this process.
BTW… all of this is true for Medicare plan selections also. You want an agent who represents many companies and can help you make sure your docs and prescriptions are covered in your plan.
There are still no guarantees even when working with qualified agents because we are all fallible at some level, but this way at least you will be making a little more conscious decision.
One of the better ways to find an agent in your area is simply ask your family and friends for recommendations. You can even ask your friends on facebook and I am sure many people would be happy to help you out.
I hope this article is of value to you as well as some of my fellow agents.
If we can help you with your health insurance and Medicare plan needs in GA, please feel free to reach out to us.