Navigating the Federal Insurance
Marketplace for 2018
Browse the Marketplace to see if you qualify for a tax credit, and then browse the plans and rates.
You can click on the link below to begin:
OPEN ENROLLMENT IS OVER: SPECIAL ENROLLMENT SITUATIONS MID-YEAR
- LOSS OF GROUP COVERAGE OR OREGON HEALTH PLAN: If you lose group health insurance, get married, lose Oregon Health Insurance, or other similar situation, I can help you get coverage mid-year.
- Life Change: If you have an active Marketplace application and you need to change income, address, add a baby, or other information, I can help you with the Life Change.
- WHAT IF ALL THE PLANS ARE UNAFFORDABLE FOR YOU IN 2018?
If you didn't buy Health Insurance, or your policy canceled, I have an excellent plan you can sign up for year-around. Visit my Short Term Medical link and look at the National General plan.
BROKER HELP TRULY COMES AT NO COST
I like to share at the onset that working with a broker comes at no cost to you. However, I am only compensated by the insurance carrier if you select me as your agent when applying through the Marketplace or direct. If you do your Marketplace enrollment, I would appreciate it when the application asks in a small box, 'Is someone helping you complete this enrollment? Please add my name Dan Neils, agent/broker, and my NPN 757811.
This appoints me as your broker at no cost to you, and I am available to you 12 months out of the year when you have issues with the insurance carrier, the Marketplace, or have a Life Change or issue to discuss. I will also educate and inform you as things change.
SCHEDULE A TIME WITH ME
I really value your time, and most of my clients prefer to meet with me by scheduling a phone time with a computer screen-share appointment. This is easier than it sounds, and it allow you to see my computer screen. I have no access to your computer. Here's the process:
1. SCHEDULE APPOINTMENT:
Call me at 503-650-4325 to schedule the meeting or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to request an appointment and I'll contact you.
2. SCREEN SHARE FOR OUR PHONE APPOINTMENTS:
During our phone meeting, if you have a computer, I can best help you if you could be in front of your computer. With a simple screen-share, you can see my computer screen, and I can better show you brochures, applications, and how to look up providers.
I'll ask you to go to the website, www.join.me . On the page there is a place where it says 'join meeting', and I'll give you a code to enter.
Begin your 2018 renewal or new application
1. Family members/Household definition:
Your 'Household' includes everyone who will be on your 2018 tax return (not 2017), whether they are applying for coverage or not, living in your home or not. If your child will not be on your 2018 tax return, you should do a separate Marketplace application in their own name and create a separate Marketplace account for them. The application will ask for each person on in your 'tax family' and who will be enrolling in coverage.
2. Projected Income to calculate the advanced tax credit
Your goal here is to project as best your can an estimated 'Modified Adjusted Gross Income' for every person on your tax return, even if they are not applying for coverage. If your spouse has untaxed Social Security, you need to also list this as a source of income.
If you were unsure of your Adjusted Gross Income last year, look at your last tax return. You're find this on line 37 of a 1040 Federal tax form.
This can be a tricky guesstimate, particularly for the self-insured as you are trying to project income you have not yet earned yet. You are wise to project your income a little higher than you expect. This way when you do your taxes it will not sting as much if you are incorrect in your projection. Please ask me about this step as it is consequential.
Sometimes understanding the limits to qualify for a tax credit can be critically important.
Case Study: John and Sara are 59 and 60 years old. Their projected income for 2018 $70,000. (The cut-off for them to qualify for a tax credit is $64,000). The least expensive Bronze plan would cost them $1127 per month.
HOW MY ADVICE COULD SAVE THEM $12,624:
Here's advice to legally and ethically help John and Sarah lower their MAGI income by $6000: They could buy an HSA-Eligible plan such as the Standard Bronze plan, and contribute $6000 into an HSA account. This would reduce their MAGI by $6000.
A second possible solution could be to contribute $6000 into a Traditional IRA. Both strategies would reduce their taxable income from $70,000 to $64,000 making them eligible for the $12,624 tax credit. I offer this as an example of how working with an expert broker can be helpful. After the tax credit, the least expensive bronze plan only cost them $74.68 per month, a huge savings. Another client eligible for a $12,000 tax credit in 2017 did not receive it because the applied direct with Kaiser, and not through the Marketplace. Knowing these things can be incredibly consequential.
3. Submit the application and read the Benefit Determination Report:
After you go through the application you submit it for determination and you can view a PDF report. It's super important to carefully read this report to see if there is documentation you need to submit, and in what time frame. This could be the difference in you getting a tax credit, or your coverage even being terminated. I can show you how to upload the requested documents---never mail them in as they frequently get lost. I can help with this. If the report says you need to provide documentation, you usually have about a month to do this, but don't wait. I can help with this. Never mail in the documentation. Always upload it into your account.
4. Selecting the right plan or plans for you:
Now that you know have submitted your application, and viewed your benefit determination, it is time to view the plans and select the policy or policies that best fit your family situation for the year. For this I would have you review my 'Individual Plans' page for a detailed discussion. Once you narrow to one company, like Kaiser, review my Kaiser Page.
Before selection of a plan it would benefit you to have a discussion with me to confirm your understanding of the plan and the plan limitations. I may shine a light on something you haven't considered.
5. Make your initial premium payment
Your premium will be due before the date coverage starts. Be sure to look out both in mail and email for this initial bill. Don't let this slide as the carriers are merciless if there is an error.
When you pick your plan, then view the final review there is a button that says "Did someone help you select your plan?". Here I'd appreciate your checking to see if I am still listed as your agent, Dan Neils, NPN 757811, even if you did it on your own. Thank you!
6. TAKE YOUR TIME DON'T RUSH:
Health insurance is likely one of your largest bills each month. Just a second caution to make sure you understand the plans and networks prior to enrolling and locking in your coverage for the year. It can be very consequential financially. Keep in mind if you want January 1st as your start date, you have until December 15th to select a plan.
COMMON QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I've included some of my own Q and A for common areas people mess up. I've included other various Q & A on related topics.
Q: If I'm doing my Marketplace renewal, which Dental plan would you recommend?
A: On the marketplace the Kaiser dental plans have no waiting periods, and the Delta Dental PPO Exclusive plan is popular, but you can only use dentists in the Delta Dental PPO Network. I have other direct-written dental plans on my web page.
Q: If I'm doing a new application for the first time on my own, what general tips do you have?
A: 1. Write down the Marketplace customer service number (800-318-2596), Your Login (which is the email you used to apply) and the Password you create. When listing on the application people in your household, list everyone expected to be a dependent on your 2018 tax return, even those not applying for coverage. It will ask you who is applying for coverage. There is much more but there's are a few tips.
Q: My son is 23 and is living in my home and will do his own taxes for 2018, should I put him on my application if I intend to pay his premiums?
A: No, to be on your application he has to be a dependent on your tax return. He is not part of your 'household' for purposes of this process. To get coverage through the Marketplace he can do his own application. You can always pay his premium if that's your goal.
Q: My husband is 66 and on Medicare. Does he need to be on my application?
A: Yes! If you file taxes jointly, your household income includes everyone on your tax return for that year. When you put him on the application, you say no to when they ask you if he is applying for coverage. You also need to include his income, including Social Security in your income declaration.
Q: When adding up our income projection for 2018, should I put down my husband's untaxed Social Security income?
A: Yes, if you file jointly your taxes, you need to include income from everyone, even if they are not applying for coverage.
Q: How about the $5000 my tax dependent son made at his job?
A. List the income for each family member on the application when it asks if you have income.
Q: If my kids are already on Oregon Health Plan, will doing my Marketplace renewal renew their OHP coverage?
A: No, if you child is on OHP, OHP will mail you randomly a renewal packet sometime during the year. However, if they are not on OHP, the Marketplace application may qualify them for initial enrollment. If your child loses OHP coverage, we can do a Life Change and add them onto your coverage. This will increase your tax credit to help you pay for it.
Q: WHAT IF I QUALIFY FOR TAX CREDIT MID-YEAR BECAUSE MY INCOME GOES DOWN OR UP?
A: Anytime you have a change of income you are obligated to report a 'Life Change'. This Life Change may allow you to start getting a tax credit, and you may be allowed mid-year to change your health plan in response. I'm here to help you with this. Be hesitant to use the Marketplace folks to do this, as suffer no consequences if they make a mistake over the phone.
Q: If they say I qualify for a $300 tax credit monthly, do I need to take the whole thing every month or can I defer it for later?
A: No, you can choose to not take it up front, then get the money at tax time instead. The purpose of their advancing you the tax credit is to make it more affordable to pay your premium each month. You can also chose to take a percent of what's being offered, like $200 per month, and get the rest at tax time. Most people take the whole credit being offered.
Q: When enrolling, how do I put different family members on different plans?
A: When you start the Enrollment process, it will allow you to chose 'shopping groups'. Creating a new Shopping Group just lets you shop so each person is under their own policy. If you qualify for a tax credit they will divide the credit among you. You could also put 2 people under 1 policy, and 1 person on their own, depending on your needs.
Q: When should I put different family members on different policies?
Let's say Mom has of medications and wants more upfront coverage. You may select a Standard Silver or other plan for her. Dad may rarely go and want a lower cost plan or the HSA option. Put Dad on his own 'shopping group' plan..
WHAT IF OUR SON IS AWAY AT COLLEGE IN ANOTHER STATE PART OF THE YEAR?
Kaiser allows has a Dependent out of state rider to acomodate this. If they spend the bulk of the year in another state you can buy them a policy in that state if they are considered a resident there.
Q: WHEN IS MY FIRST PAYMENT DUE?
Coverage is due by the day the coverage starts. However, let's say your work plan ended on the 29th of March, and I helped you sign up on through the Marketplace for a Kaiser plan on March 30. Coverage would begin April 1, and Kaiser may not bill you until mid-April for the April 1 start date. However, your May 1 payment would be due shortly after.
Q: Why would I want to open an HSA Account anyway?
A: I added a whole page on HSA plans, but basically, if you have an HSA eligible plan, you can make all your eligible medical, dental, vision, alternative care, RX, and more expenses a tax-advantaged situation. If you file a 1040 form, it directly reduces your taxable income.
Q: Why should I list you as my agent if I did the application on my own?
A: Fair question. Listing Dan Neils, , NPN 757811 is much appreciated as this is how I am compensated. I offer all of this info (analysis on this plans) to your each year, I am here to advise you 12 months out of the year, and I'm here to act as your advocate, both with the Marketplace and direct with the Carrier. My services come at no cost to you. A single piece of advice I offer you could save you literally thousands per year.Finally, things will continue to change, and your best source of help when things do is an informed Broker.
If you signed up on your own and want to later add me as your broker, you can do so by signing a 'Broker of Record' request which I can send you if you email me at email@example.com or call me at 503-650-4325.
Q: Are all the plans in HealthCare.gov available if you instead buy direct from the carriers?
A: No. Regence and HealthNet only sells their plans direct with the carrier, not through HealthCare.gov. Other carriers also have some plans that are only available direct. For example Life wise plans are only through the Marketplace for 2016, and HealthNet plans are only direct....another reason to have a Broker.
Q: I've never heard of Bridgespan, tell me more.
A; Regence decide to sell their Individual plans direct-only, then created the company Bridgespan for their plans through the Marketplace. Both companies use a network of providers called the OHSU Plus network.
Q: Why should I use you instead of a slick web-seller like www.esurance.com or healthplans.com rather than work with you?
A: We all offer the same rates, there are no discounts available. That said, they provide you with the data, but I offer you the wisdom on how to interpret and apply it. As you can guess, making a wise decision on health insurance comes down to experience as well as information. I have that experience to help you make an informed decision.
Q: Why are companies raising their rates so high in 2018?
A: Tough one. Many factors. Probably the largest factor is the very sick whose massive claims sink the profitability of the insurance carriers. ObamaCare has built in programs to help compensate the carriers for their losses, but Congress refused to fund these mechanisms, instead leaving the carriers to flounder and carry the losses, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars (hoping the program fails). Consequently for 2018 in increasing number of carriers are fleeing the Marketplace. For a private company to succeed, it must be able to make a profit. The cost of custom medications also tanks profitability.
Q: How do I estimate my 2018 income on the Marketplace application if I am self-insured?
A: Super hard! For last year, look at your gross sales, the look to see how much ended up taxable on your tax return after your write-offs. Check mid-year to see if you are on track to the number you estimate. If not do a 'Life Change' to update.
Q: How do I best report a life change?
A: I have seen so many errors from the Marketplace call center, that I plead with you let me show you how to make changes on your own, or I will do it for you. If a Call Center representative messes up your account, he/she is not accountable, and it can cost you literally thousands. Please also do NOT let them do your renewal over the phone. You cannot see what they are doing, and mistakes are consequential.
Q: Last year I signed up, got a nice tax credit, then had it taken away mid year! What did I do wrong?
A; Normally, the FFM request income documentation or other documentation. If they don't like what you sent them they sometimes just take away your credit. If things ever get messed up PLEASE call me, I can help.
Unfortunately, if they mess up, you pay for it. There will not fix it retroactively, but just moving forward.
Q: WHAT IF I HAVE MORE THAN 3 KIDS UNDER AGE 19?
A: If you put your kids on the same policy, you only pay a premium for the first 3, the rest are free. This only works for kids under age of 19.
Q. Dan, I know you are crazy busy the Fall during Open Enrollment, will you have time to help me?
A. Oh yes! I work semi-tirelessly from 8:00 am to 7:00pm helping folks. Just call or email me and we'll get an appointment on the books for you.
Q: You only list 6 or so plans from each type in your recommendations, how do you narrow the plan options to the best 6?
A: Good question! During I go to the provider meetings to learn as a broker what changes they are making in their plans, get rates and plan designs, then start the process of comparing plans. After lots of analysis I narrow the top 6 plans by price and the networks available. For example PacificSource is the most expensive plan, but I include them because they are the only carrier with Legacy providers for 2018.
Q: What do you think about the Christian Health Sharing ministries like Medishare and Liberty?
A: I have taken the time to order materials and read fine-print on both of these plans. Here are a few thoughts: 1. They are not insurance. A Standard Bronze caps your catastropic coverage, including medications at $6350. Sharing ministries are just not prepared to handle that huge cancer or maybe some treatments you may not need. If God's hand is in these plans, I don't want to be against what they are doing. I love the idea of Christians helping to pay each others medical bills and applaud the effort 2. They may not 'share' in some of the stuff you need them to like mental health drugs. 3. If they refuse to 'share in your big bill' you have no recourse. I spoke first-hand with a client who tried one of these 2 ministries, had a delivery that went bad, and refused to share in her $110,000 bill, and had her ask the hospital to write off the bill. That didn't sound right to me. This all said, of the 2 programs I like the Liberty plan better. If you do one of these plan, you may consider adding my MetalGap accident plan which could complement the coverage.
Q: What happened to Lifewise, Oregon's Health Coop and Health Republic?
A. Lifewise will discontinue plans 12/31/16. OHCOOP was shut down July 31due to finances, and Health Republic closed 12/31/15 due to finances. Without reforms this trend is likely to continue. RIP.
Q: What if my income drops mid year? Should I report it?
A: Yes, you can report to the Marketplace by reporting a "Life Change". This will either result in an increase or decrease to your tax credit. Your obligation is to contact the Marketplace if your income changes substantially. I can help you with this. Please don't let the Marketplace folks do the LifeChange for you over the phone if you can at all avoid this. You cannot see what they are doing, and they often make mistakes that can be consequential. A LifeChange reported by the 15th of the month is effective the 1st of the next month.
Q: The Marketplace is requiring I send in proof of my income for 2018, but I haven't earned it yet, this is messed up?
A: The tax credits are giving in advance of what you are likely to earn in 2018. When you file your taxes spring 2019, the IRS reconciles what you said you would earn, say $40,000 with what you really had for a MAGI, say $43,000. If you guessed too low, you may have to pay back some of what you got each month. If you guessed high, you will get extra money in your taxes when they reconcile.
I missed Open enrollment, am I doomed?
So you missed open enrollment, or your coverage cancelled for non-payment mid year. You have a good option in buying Short Term Medical insurance for the rest of the year. Visit my web page at http://www.agapeinsurance.net/short-term-medical-.html
OTHER QUALIFYING EVENTS:
Recent divorce, leaving your parents plan, a move to another state, and a major change of income are all possible qualifying events that may allow you to enroll mid-year.
UNDERSTAND THE TERM 'COST SHARING'
When your income is between 138% - 250% of the Federal Poverty Level, you will benefit by being offered a lower deductible and out of pocket maximum if you select a 'Silver Level' plan. For instance, the Kaiser Standard Silver plan, which has a $2500 deductible, may be offered to you with a $250, or $500, or $750, or $1500 deductible. Be sure to check out the deductible for the Silver plans to see if you qualify.
UNDERSTAND 'DEDUCTIBLE' AND "OUT OF POCKET MAX" ON THE WEBSITE
At www.healthcare.gov, when you view a quote for more than one person, the deductible that shows up is actually double the individual deductible--which is the more important consideration. The website also doubles the out of pocket maximum. Confusing? Yep, sure is! For example when viewing a quote for 2 people, let's say the plan displays as having a $5000 deductible, and $10,000 out of pocket maximum. You should view this as a plan with a $2500 individual and $5000 out of pocket max. Make sense?
Call Dan prior to making a final decision on coverage to make sure you're not overlooking something critical. That's what I'm paid for!
A FEW MORE THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND REGARDING COVERAGE CHANGES FOR 2018: (There are too many to list...)
1. RATES VARY BY PERSON:
There is a different rate for each family member. Don't be afraid to put different family members on different plans, according to your usage needs. There is no advantage to all being on the same plan or company and no cost savings. Kids over age 19 are priced like adults and they get a 40% rate increase when they turn 21.
2. GUARANTEED TO QUALIFY:
Unlike in the past, your approval is guaranteed. No medical questions, denials, or waits for pre-existing conditions. You have full access to every plan--approval guaranteed, which is exciting to anyone who has been denied by a carrier before.
3. ALTERNATIVE CARE:
Many plans will now allow you to use your Naturopathic doctor as your Primary Care Doctor. The Kaiser Silver and Gold plans allow you to go to Alternative Care (Chiropractic, Naturopathic & Acupunture visits, but you need to get a referral from a Kaiser PCP. Most other plans exclude Alternative Care providers for 2018.
4. MAXIMUM OUT OF POCKET:
The term "Maximum out of Pocket" is an important term to understand as it includes your deductible, co-insurance (like the 30%), your copays and your RX costs for services performed 'In Network'. When you reach your out of pocket maximum (in network), the plan pays at 100% for the rest of the year which is great! Understand your coverage. Take the time to read the fine print, read the exclusions and limitations. Try to fight having the 'get it done' mentality. At such a large cost you should understand what you are buying.
5. PLANNING A PREGNANCY OR SURGERY:
When you see a big out of pocket coming, you can select a plan with a low out of pocket maximum. My cart under the link "Individual Medical Plans" show the plans with the lowest out of pocket maximum. We can discuss which company may best meet your needs.
6. PROVIDER NETWORKS:
Each company is reducing their networks for 2018 except Kaiser. With Providence, the important question isn't whether your doctor takes Providence, but whether they are in the Choice or Connect network.
7. HEATH SAVINGS ACCOUNT-ELIGIBLE MEDICAL PLANS (HSA):
I discuss this in depth on my HSA page.
8. HOW MUCH CAN I EARN AN QUALIFY FOR A TAX CREDIT?
This varies by age and family make up. Examples: A couple ages 50, 50, 18, 18 can earn up to about $96,000 per year and qualify for a tax credit. A couple age 60, 60 can earn about $64,000 max and get a large tax credit.
HELPING YOU CONSIDER THESE ISSUES AND PLAN I YOU ARE CLOSE IS PART OF THE BEST SERVICE I PROVIDE TO YOU AS A BROKER. CALL ME TO DISCUSS YOUR SITUATION TODAY. CALL DAN AT 503-650-4325 OR DANNEILS@GMAIL.COM
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