4 Health Insurance Changes You Will See in 2019

Shopping for health insurance can feel overwhelming for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest confusions is that things are always changing! This year, there are more health insurance changes than ever, with new regulations, prices, and insurance companies on the scene. But don’t worry—with our help, you can put these changes to work and still find a health plan you love!

Change #1: Short Term Health Plans Are More Accessible

In the past, short term health plans, which are not compliant with the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) regulations, could only be offered for up to three months. These plans aren’t required to, and typically don’t, cover certain benefits, like maternity care or mental health. Short term plans were primarily bought by people who found themselves in unexpected coverage gaps (e.g., they lost a job) and wanted some extra financial protection until they could enroll in a new health plan.

This is one of the health insurance changes you will see this year. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced that short term plans can now be used for up to 12 months, with the possibility of renewing for up to three years. These plans will be significantly less expensive than standard, ACA-compliant plans because they don’t cover basic benefits and insurers don’t have to sell them to people with pre-existing medical conditions. Certain states, like New York and Vermont, have passed legislation that does not allow the sale of these short-term plans.

What This Means for You

We recommend exploring ACA-compliant plans that offer comprehensive coverage (including prescriptions and doctor visits), cap your annual spending on medical bills, and even include free services. If you qualify for a subsidy, these plans can be very inexpensive. If you are simply unable to find a budget-friendly plan (and if you don’t expect to use much medical care during the year), you could try applying for a cheaper short-term plan. Keep in mind that these options will not cover basic care and are relatively unregulated, but can provide some protection in case of emergency.

Change #2: Premium Prices Are Changing

Health insurance premiums—the fixed amount you pay every month for your health plan—have been changing every year for the last several years. 2019 will be no exception; on average, premiums are expected to increase across most states. These prices are increasing for a few reasons, but it’s largely related to recent changes in insurance regulations. However, some states, like Minnesota, will see premium decreases.

What This Means for You

Here’s some good news: 2019 plan prices are, on average, increasing by smaller percentages than they have in past years. This means that you don’t have to be stuck with a super expensive health plan. In fact, you can probably entirely avoid premium increases by simply switching to the cheapest plan in their metal tier. Additionally, subsidies generally increase alongside premiums, so there is a good chance you won’t see a large monthly payment increase even if your plan’s premium increases significantly!

Change #3: No More Tax Penalty

Insurers rely on healthy customers who don’t need a lot of medical care to cover their sicker customers’ medical bills. With the passing of the ACA, people with pre-existing health conditions who would no longer be denied coverage were more likely to buy health plans. To balance things out, the ACA tried to incentivize more healthy people to enroll by introducing a fine of up to 2,085 if they ever went uninsured for longer than three months.

Last year, federal legislation reduced the tax penalty to 0. The change takes place for 2019 coverage. Some experts argue that this policy change will contribute to premium rate increases.

What This Means for You

If you decide to go uninsured next year, you will not be penalized by the government. But just because you won’t be fined at tax time doesn’t mean it’s safe to drop your health insurance. Unexpected medical bills can get expensive fast: a broken leg alone costs an average of 7,500 without health insurance. Finding a quality, affordable health plan is still the best way to make sure you’re protecting your health and your wallet.

Change #4: New Insurers on the Scene

In years past, some insurance companies pulled out from offering plans in certain states, leaving individuals with fewer choices. This caused a lot of confusion, frustration, and high premium increases. Fortunately, no insurers are expected to withdraw from states they serve today, and many in fact are offering plans in new states for 2019.

What This Means for You

Chances are, when you’re shopping for 2019 health insurance, you’ll see more plan options than you did last year… especially if you qualify for a subsidized plan. This means you probably want to come back and shop again with Stride to see what additional plan options are available to you for 2019 coverage.

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