What you need to know for insurance open enrollment

Sponsored By: Palmetto Project

Sponsored by: Palmetto Project
By: H. A. Fisher

It’s time to review your health insurance. Open enrollment for the health insurance marketplace begins Nov. 1, so it’s the perfect time to update any information and review your policy to ensure it’s still the best fit for your health care needs and budget.

Anyone who previously explored the health insurance marketplace, which was created under the Affordable Care Act, but didn’t sign up can use this enrollment period to review the available policies. Plans and prices change each year so even if there wasn’t a good fit last year, you might find a new policy that works well.

The enrollment period lasts until Jan. 31, 2016, but if you want your coverage to begin on Jan. 1, you need to be signed up by Dec. 15.

Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to open enrollment:

Update your information.

Even if you’re covered and happy with your policy, this is the time to update any changes to contact information, confirm your income and report any major life changes, such as a new baby.

Financial help is available.

Don’t automatically assume you won’t be able to afford health insurance. Enroll America, a health care enrollment coalition, reports 84 percent of Americans received financial assistance to make their plan more affordable. The average customer who received assistance paid $101 a month for coverage.

Take advantage of in-person support.

Health insurance is confusing for many people, but don’t let that keep you from getting coverage. Local nonprofit Palmetto Project has team members available to meet free of charge with anyone who needs help.

Sign up or face a fine.

If you opt to forego health insurance, you’ll encounter a fine when it comes time to pay your taxes. Anyone who hasn’t enrolled in a plan by Jan. 31, 2016, could face a fine of $695 per uninsured adult (half that amount per uninsured child) or 2.5 percent of your annual taxable income, whichever is great. The fine also increases each year.

Many people argue paying the fine is still cheaper than the monthly cost of health insurance, especially people who are young, healthy and don’t require much medical care.

That’s certainly their choice, said Sonia Donnelly, signupSC outreach coordinator at Palmetto Project, but she urges consumers to weigh the cost of going without health insurance should an emergency strike. If you break a leg or have appendicitis and need surgery, those bills will be much larger than the fine.

“It’s not worth it,” she said. “We want to get people to think about how to be prepared and think about health insurance more like car insurance. You hope you won’t get into a wreck, but the likelihood is great that you will.”

Visit signupsc.palmettoproject.org to do your own research or take advantage of the Palmetto Project team members available to help. You can also make an appointment by calling Palmetto Project at 888-998-4646.