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2017 open enrollment for Obamacare plans begins Nov. 1, 2016, and ends Jan. 1, 2017. While November may seem like a ways off, now is a good time to start your preparations.
When you go apply for health insurance this fall, whether it be renewing your existing plan or selecting a new one, it helps to know where you’ve been and where you’re going—at least in terms of your healthcare needs. A little legwork now can help you better select the right 2017 coverage—and, possibly, select it more quickly. Take the following actions leading up to Nov. 1.
Have you used your health insurance plan in 2016? Did you require more, less or the same amount of medical care than you expected to need this year?
Keep a list of your medical expenses, including prescription medications, trips to the doctor or urgent care, lab tests, hospitalizations and surgeries. Have you paid your plan deductible or barely made a dent? This can help you determine what plan metal level you might select in 2017.
Your Obamacare plan includes several preventive care screenings and services at no additional cost beyond your monthly premium. Take advantage of these benefits to get the most out of your health insurance coverage.
Preventive care visits can help you assess your current healthcare needs and anticipate those you may have in the near future. A new medical diagnosis may also mean a change in your annual healthcare expenses (e.g., regular checkups, more frequent screenings, prescription medications). If you currently have a bronze plan and are diagnosed with an ongoing medical condition, you may need to consider a silver or gold plan to help lower your out-of-pocket expenses.
Also be sure to schedule visits to the eye doctor and dentist. While this care is not likely a part of your Obamacare plan, preventive eye and dental care can also help you assess the state of your overall health.
If you received an Obamcare subsidy in 2015, you need to file your 2015 taxes and Form 8962, if you have not yet done so. This helps reconcile your subsidy eligibility with any advanced premium tax credits or cost-sharing reductions you received, and it also helps determine what subsidies you will qualify for in 2017., Failure to file your taxes and Form 8962 could jeopardize your future subsidy eligibility.
Receiving Obamacare subsidies in 2016? Be sure to report changes in your income and household size to your state-based or federally facilitated health insurance exchange as soon as they happen. The amount of subsidy for which you are eligible can change from month to month, if your circumstances do.
If you make more money or experience a decrease in family size and fail to report it, you could have to repay some of your subsidy at tax time. If you make less money or experience an increase in family size and fail to report it, you could miss out on subsidies that will help you save on healthcare right now.
Sometimes deciding whether or not to keep your current plan depends on more than premium rates.
Even within the same plan, benefits, provider networks and other details may change from year to year. Rather than automatically re-enroll, make sure to read over plan details carefully and look for changes. Consider comparing a few plans to help ensure you are selecting the best match, and work with a licensed health insurance producer.
If you experience a gap in health insurance coverage before 2017, whether it be for a month or until the end of the year, you may want to consider temporary benefits until you can begin another Obamacare plan.
While short term health insurance plans are not ACA compliant, which means you can be denied based on health history and they will not prevent you from owing a tax penalty, they do provide a range of temporary benefits for unexpected healthcare expenses.
Start coverage as early as tomorrow!
 HealthCare.gov. “Glossary: Open Enrollment Period.” https://www.healthcare.gov/glossary/open-enrollment-period/ Accessed June 6, 2016.
 Pear, Robert. “Thousands Who Didn’t File Tax Returns May Lose Health Care Subsidies.” The New York Times. Oct. 25, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/26/us/politics/thousands-who-didnt-file-tax-returns-may-lose-health-care-subsidies.html?_r=0
 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “Medicare Open Enrollment.” Accessed June 6, 2016. https://www.cms.gov/Outreach-and-Education/Reach-Out/Find-tools-to-help-you-help-others/Medicare-Open-Enrollment.html
This document is for general informational purposes only. While we have attempted to provide current and accurate information, this information is provided "as is" and we makes no representations or warranties regarding its accuracy or completeness. The information provided should not be construed as legal or tax advice or as a recommendation of any kind. External users should seek professional advice from their own attorneys and tax and benefit plan advisers with respect to their individual circumstances and needs.
SHORT-TERM MEDICAL EXPENSE (STM)
THIS IS A SHORT TERM HEALTH BENEFIT PLAN THAT IS NOT INTENDED TO QUALIFY AS THE MINIMUM ESSENTIAL COVERAGE REQUIRED BY THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT (ACA). UNLESS YOU PURCHASE A PLAN THAT PROVIDES MINIMUM ESSENTIAL COVERAGE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE ACA, YOU MAY BE SUBJECT TO A FEDERAL TAX PENALTY. ALSO, THE TERMINATION OR LOSS OF THIS POLICY DOES NOT ENTITLE YOU TO A SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD TO PURCHASE A HEALTH BENEFIT PLAN THAT QUALIFIES AS MINIMUM ESSENTIAL COVERAGE OUTSIDE OF AN OPEN ENROLLMENT PERIOD. THIS POLICY INCLUDES A PRE-EXISTING CONDITION EXCLUSION PROVISION.
About The IHC Group
Independence Holding Company (NYSE: IHC) is a holding company that is principally engaged in underwriting, administering and/or distributing group and individual disability, specialty and supplemental health, pet, and life insurance through its subsidiaries since 1980. The IHC Group (including through its 92% ownership of American Independence Corp. (NASDAQ: AMIC)) owns three insurance companies (Standard Security Life Insurance Company of New York, Madison National Life Insurance Company, Inc. and Independence American Insurance Company), a majority of Ebix Health Administration Exchange, Inc., a fully insured third party administrator, and IHC Specialty Benefits, Inc., which is a technology-driven insurance sales and marketing company that creates value for insurance producers, carriers and consumers (both individuals and small businesses) through a suite of proprietary tools and products (including ACA plans and small group medical stop-loss). All products are placed with highly rated carriers.
About IHC Specialty Benefits, Inc.
IHC Specialty Benefits, Inc., doing business as Health eDeals Insurance Solutions is a full-service marketing and distribution company that focuses on small employer, individual and consumer products. Health eDeals markets products via general agents online, telebrokerage, advisor centers, private label and directly to consumers. For more information about Health eDeals visit http://www.HealtheDeals.com.