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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