ACA Open Enrollment starts at 12:00.00001 AM on Sunday morning.
Open enrollment goes through at least December 15th for everyone. Healthcare.gov is the federally run exchange. States that run their own exchanges may go longer.
So what do you need to know about Open Enrollment?
TAKE A MOMENT
You don’t need to make a choice this weekend. There might be other things that are grabbing most if not all of your attention at the moment. I know my attention is scattered.
TAKE A LOOK
You might be perfectly happy with the choice that you made this year and want to continue with that same choice next year. If you are not receiving a subsidy, you should have gotten a letter in the past week saying that Plan X will cost you $Y starting in January. Premium increases this year were fairly low.
If you received a subsidy, it is critical to look at the exchanges. Your net premium is a function of your income (which could change since the last time you entered your information) and the premium spread between the plan you chose last year and used this year and the benchmark plan. The benchmark plan is fairly likely to change in competitive markets. It is very likely to change. Your gross premium might be flat or decreasing but your net premium (the number you actually care about) could sky rocket because a new insurer came into the market and undercut the benchmark.
Taking a look at all of the options out there is critical. You do not need to make a perfect choice. You just need to make a good enough choice. The subsidy formula does weird things to relative prices which does weird things to the price you pay, so look around so you are not surprised. And hell, there may be a great deal out there.
TAKE A HAND
Insurance is confusing. I say that as someone who thinks about insurance way too much. Unless you know you are nearly certain to run up $40,000 or more in claims every year, figuring out the interaction of cost sharing, risk tolerance, and potential medical expenses is tough. Get help. The ACA has navigators to help understand plans and the enrollment process. They can’t make a recommendation but they can lay out the choice space. Agents and brokers can and will make recommendations (as that is how they make their money) and the better ones really know the ins-outs and oddities of policies.
TAKE A BREATH
This is a big and complex decision. Laying out your priorities, values, and realistic constraints is important to make the pragmatic decision space smaller. Once the decision space is reduced down to a couple of good enough choices, take a breath and accept that good enough is likely good enough as optimal choice can be extremely hard to make. Accepting that these choice sets are satisficing solutions instead of optimizing/maximizing solutions is a big relaxer for me.