How to Choose 2016 Health Benefits in 5 Streamlined Steps

Jenifer Dorsey
2018-11-06 November 3rd, 2015 |
Read time: 10 minutes

Open enrollment for 2016 health plans is underway—it started Nov. 1, 2015, and lasts until Jan. 31, 2016. The Affordable Care Act requires that most Americans enroll in what is known as minimum essential coverage and makes income-based subsidies available to help them pay for it.

While this may be the third Obamacare open enrollment period, it doesn’t necessarily mean we all have this process down. It is sometimes difficult to know where to begin and how to go about selecting a health plan. We’ve simplified the process by breaking it up into five steps and hope it helps navigating 2016 open enrollment a little easier.

1. Evaluate your current coverage

You may like your 2015 health insurance plan—maybe it’s even been with you for a long time. It might even automatically renew, which can certainly make life a little easier.

Even so, open enrollment is a good time to take a look at your coverage and make sure it’s still the right fit. Carriers enter and leave the market. New health plans are introduced, and old ones go away. Rates go up and down. Your healthcare needs shift. You get the idea.

Whether you want to keep what you’ve got or look for something new, it is wise to:

  • Look at your current benefits and consider what you like about them—and what you may not like so much.
  • Consider your healthcare needs and financial situation for the year to come. Are your current benefits adequate?
  • Investigate your health plan options for the year ahead. How do they stack up with your current benefits and what you pay for them?

For a more in-depth look at how to evaluate your current coverage, read: Are You Satisfied Your Health Insurance Plan?

2. Investigate your 2016 Obamacare coverage options

As a result of the ACA, today’s health insurance marketplace tends to offer up a lot of possibilities for individuals and families that buy their own benefits. You can find health plans in the private market as well as the state-based and federally facilitated exchanges. You might be eligible for Medicaid based on your income and other criteria.

Investigating your options can be overwhelming when there are many, so it helps to set some parameters. Determining what you can afford to pay for health insurance and whether or not you qualify for subsidies or Medicaid can help. For help with this, you can:

  • Use a calculator tool to estimate your subsidy amount
  • Check with your state-based or federally facilitated exchange
  • Consult with a health insurance producer (i.e., an agent or broker)

If you qualify for an Obamacare subsidy—a premium tax credit and/or cost-sharing reduction—you must enroll through your state exchange website or the Health Insurance Marketplace to take advantage of it. Use this map to find out which website people in your state use to enroll.

If you do not qualify for an Obamacare subsidy, you can still shop your state-based or federally facilitated exchange, but you might also explore off-exchange options.

If you qualify for Medicaid, you will need to enroll with your state’s Medicaid program.

3. Narrow your plan selection

Once you’ve figured out where to shop for 2016 coverage, it’s time to start focusing on a few key options. Based on your healthcare needs, budget and subsidy amount, if any, you can begin to rule out plans in certain metal levels.

From there, you may want to look closer at specific plan elements such as:

If you need help understanding our selecting a plan, you can consult a producer, carrier representative or exchange-based helper.

4. Apply and enroll in your 2016 health insurance plan

To help make the application and enrollment process go as quickly and smoothly as possible, gather everything you will need ahead of time. This will include full applicant names, Social Security numbers, and household financial information, for starters. CMS offers a checklist of documents you will need, particularly if you select coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Again, if you need help with this process, you can work with a producer or exchange-based helper.

5. Add dental insurance and other supplemental health benefits

Your major medical insurance plan is considered minimum essential coverage. Unless you are exempt, you are required by law to have it.

There are other types of coverage that are not required by the ACA; however, they can help you save money on healthcare expenses your Obamacare plan doesn’t cover. For example, dental insurance can help reduce the cost of preventive care and other dental work. Medical gap insurance provides a lump sum benefit that can be used toward your deductible, coinsurance and copays, as well as household expenses and more.

Click here to read more about the four main supplemental plans you should consider. You can also visit to get quick, free quotes for ACA-compliant, off-exchange health insurance as well as supplemental plans.

2019 Health Insurance Open Enrollment:
Nov 1 - Dec 15


What's New for the ACA + Open Enrollment this Year?

Get the latest news and updates.

Go to the ACA Blog

Do You Qualify For A Subsidy?

Use the Obamacare Calculator to find out.

Calculate Subsidy

Is Obamacare Mandatory in 2019?

The tax penalty is repealed beginning Jan. 1, 2019. That means you can explore alternative health insurance options without paying the individual mandate tax.

Obamacare Alternatives

Got questions about the ACA (also known as Obamacare)? Get the answers here! 

Obamacare FAQ

Individual Health Insurance in Your State

When it comes to enrolling in Obamacare, or any individual health insurance plan like short-term medical or dental insurance, you'll have to validate the costs and options available in your state. 

Begin Coverage in 3 Easy Steps!

Step 1: Get a quote within seconds
Step 2: Compare multiple plans
Step 3: Finish application online
Originally Published On November 3rd, 2015