Vital Deadlines to Navigating Your Health Care in 2014 Healthshare

Vital Deadlines to Navigating Your Health Care in 2014

open enrollmentAnyone who listens to the news knows that the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is approaching rapidly. The media has been playing it up, creating a sense of urgency that may have you feeling panicked. At HSA for America, we want you to know that while you do have to make sure you have an ACA compliant plan, you do not need to panic. You have time to do the research and make an informed decision regarding your health care plan. We are here to help you make that decision.

Although the Open Enrollment does, in fact, open on October 1st, this does not mean you have to decide on a plan immediately. In fact, the first year of the Affordable Care Act offers a considerable amount of flexibility. Although Open Enrollment begins in October, you have until March 31st 2014 to purchase a plan. When you choose to purchase a plan depends on when you would like to have the plan go into effect. For example, if you currently have a health insurance policy that does not expire until March, you do not have to make any changes until the anniversary date.

Deadlines for Effective Dates

All health plans purchased from October 1-December 15 will have an effective date of January 1, 2014. This deadline is, generally speaking, designed for those people who currently do not have insurance, or whose current policy expires January 1. If you fall under this category, you can make the decision about your policy at any time during this period.

If you are currently insured and your policy expires after January 1, 2014, here are the deadlines you need to keep in mind:
•    January 15 for an effective date of February 1.
•    February 15 for an effective date of March 1.
•    March 15 for an effective date of April 1.
•    March 31 for an effective date of May 1.

After March 31, the period of Open Enrollment ends and you cannot purchase an insurance policy unless you experience a qualifying event.

What is a Qualifying Event?

A qualifying event can be several things. For example, if you get married or divorced, or if you have a baby, these are qualifying events. Also, if there are substantial changes in your family income, they may be considered qualifying events. The only time you do not need one of these events is if you qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. These are federally funded insurance programs that are income-based, and you can apply for these at any time if you meet certain income requirements.

What About HSA Insurance Plans?

The most important date to remember if you are considering switching from a more traditional health plan to a Health Savings Account plan, or if you would like to purchase an HSA for with an effective date of January 1, is December 1.  As long as the plan is purchased by December 1, you will have until April 15 to fully fund your plan.

When you fully fund your plan, it means that you contribute the maximum allowed amount to your HSA. For single people under the age of 55, the amount is $3,250. For a family, that amount increases to $6,450. If you are over age 55, you are allowed an additional $1,000 contribution per year.

The Benefits to An HSA Plan

The benefits to an HSA-qualified health are many. Until now, the biggest benefit to an HSA qualified health plan has been the fact that your contribution amount is tax deductible. Also, HSA plans cost less in monthly premiums. These two factors are still important reasons to choose an HSA plan.

However, now that the Affordable Care Act is in place, there is an additional benefit. When you have an HSA and contribute the maximum amount, your Adjusted Gross Income is lowered by that amount. This can actually lower your income enough to allow you to qualify for a tax credit and lower premiums when you purchase an ACA compliant plan. For many people, this can make a huge difference in how much the insurance and out-of-pocket expenses are.

The Bottom Line

I believe that a high-deductible HSA health plan is the best one for many reasons, not the least of which is your ability to keep more of your money instead of handing it over to the insurance companies. However, there are other plans to choose from that are compliant with the ACA.

No matter which plan you decide on, do not let the media send you into a panicked frenzy as they rev up their efforts to scare you into signing up for a health plan immediately. Remember that you have the time to do the research and explore your options before you make such an important decision about how to spend your healthcare dollars.

If you have any questions about the deadlines for Open Enrollment or the different plans you can choose from, please contact one of our Personal Advisors at 866-749-2039. With years of expertise behind them, they can help you navigate the changes in the health care industry.

Author: Wiley Long
Wiley Long is President of HSA for America, and a passionate advocate for consumer-based solutions that will improve price transparency and lower health insurance and medical costs for people purchasing individual and family health insurance plans.
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  • Ron Brown

    Am I wrong with the assumption that under healthcare reform, my Blue Shield HDHP is subject to significant rate increases if my health statue changes (i.e. I actually use it to treat an illness). According to a letter that I received, insures now have the right to increase rates as they see fit according health profiles. If so, how much can they in fact raise rates in a given calendar year ?

  • Ron Brown

    Am I wrong with the assumption that under healthcare reform, my Blue Shield HDHP is subject to significant rate increases if my health statue changes (i.e. I actually use it to treat an illness). According to a letter that I received, insurers now have the right to increase rates as they see fit according health profiles. If so, how much can they in fact raise rates in a given calendar year ?

  • Wiley Long

    Hi Ron,

    Yes, that is actually incorrect. No plan can change your premiums due to a change in your health status. This was the case even before healthcare reform.

    If you have an individual Blue Shield HDHP, you have probably received notification that it is being cancelled as of 12/31. Before then you’ll need to apply for a new plan that is approved under the new laws. These plans are guaranteed issue, and premiums are not based on health status.

    If you earn less than 400% of the federal poverty level, you would also qualify for tax credits that could reduce your premium.

  • Mark

    Hello Wiley,
    I am still reeling form the cost of “affordable care” and am looking at every option for my family. One option that I don’t see addressed are the Christian based sharing organizations. The greatest opposition that I see is from insurance companies that point to non-state regulation and law suites are under way in states where this is catching on.

    The ACA includes wording that will omit those who participate in such organization from the tax penalty. My expectation is that since they are not considered an “insurance plan” that those who choose to participate will jeopardize their HSA and need to roll there money into an IRA. What is your take on this?

  • Wiley Long

    Mark,

    No, you would not jeopardize the money in your HSA, it should be safe. However, you would no longer be allowed to contribute to the HSA.

    As far as a religious exemption, this is the wording the IRS provides:

    Religious conscience. You are a member of a religious sect that is recognized as conscientiously opposed to accepting any insurance benefits. The Social Security Administration administers the process for recognizing these sects according to the criteria in the law.

    I don’t believe there have been any court cases yet to establish whether members of some of the Christian-based sharing organizations will be exempt from Obamacare, or not.

    You will need to apply for the exemption, and it can be renewed annually. https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/07/01/2013-15530/patient-protection-and-affordable-care-act-exchange-functions-eligibility-for-exemptions#p-95

    It will be interesting to see exactly how the religious exemption will play out.

  • Kathy

    I also saw the same thing Mark saw and it was on the HSA for America website under the heading “Who is Exempt From the Tax Penalty?” Quote follows:

    Religious Exemption: members of recognized religious organizations who have received conscientious objector status, such as the Old Order Amish or Old Order Mennonites, are not required to comply with the Affordable Care Act. Members of health sharing ministries such as Samaritan Ministries International are also exempt.

    I wonder if, in the future, there will be more health sharing ministries and maybe, hopefully, an insurance company that covers alternative or complementary medicine.

  • Wiley Long

    Hi Kathy,

    Yes, the best bet for covering your alternative and complementary therapies is to put money aside in an HSA, so you can use pre-tax dollars for these expenses. I do not expect insurance companies to cover most of these type of expenses, since they are now much more regulated in terms of how their plans work.

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