Buying health insurance on the marketplace sounds like a straightforward process, but nothing could be further from the truth. There are dates to remember and questions to answer. And that’s all before you ever sit down, review your policy choices, and make a decision that will affect your health and finances.
The good thing is that there is plenty of advice you can follow when buying health insurance on the marketplace. With the right guidance, you can choose a policy that gives you peace of mind.
Even better, you can choose one that you can afford. While no two people are in the exact same situation, here is some advice that most people can follow when shopping for and buying health insurance on the marketplace.
1. Know the Rules
Generally speaking, you can purchase on the marketplace annually from early November to mid-December. So, if you know you are going to be purchasing, make sure you are ready at this time of the year. After all, you only have so much time to move through the entire process and it can take longer than you think.
If you have a qualifying event at any other time of the year, you can also purchase through the marketplace. Examples of qualifying events include bringing a child into your family or losing coverage that you once had through your employer.
2. Review Your Budget
It’s one thing to know that you need to buy health insurance, but another thing entirely to do so with your budget in mind. You should review your budget upfront, as that will give you an understanding of how much you can afford to spend. Start with how much you currently pay for health insurance. That will guide you on the path forward.
3. Review Companies and Policy Types
This is when the real buying process begins. You should review all the companies, policy types, and individual policies available in your area. Even if you like your current coverage, don’t let that stop you from tackling this step in the process.
As you review companies, pay attention to the type of policies — such as PPOs and EPOs — as well as how much each one will cost. There is also a comparison tool you can use to better understand the differences between the policies that catch your eye.
Tip: Money is important, but don’t focus all your attention on the monthly premium. You also need to make sure that everything else checks out.
4. Consider Your Healthcare Situation
In other words, have a clear idea of how often you use your health insurance coverage. Yes, this can and will change from year to year, but a basic understanding is good enough at this time.
For instance, if you don’t often go to the doctor and you don’t have others on your policy, you may be able to get away with a high deductible plan for the time being. That’s particularly true if you are young and healthy. Knowing how you have used your coverage in the past can help you make a more informed decision in the future.
5. Consider Other Options
It is nice to know that you can buy health insurance through the marketplace, but it may not be your only option. Maybe your employer offers coverage. Or maybe you’re switching jobs in search of a better policy. If there are other options available to you, consider them. Maybe you stick with the marketplace, but then again, maybe you don’t.
Your goal is to purchase a comprehensive health insurance policy at an affordable price. It does not matter how you do this, as long as you get what you need and maintain active coverage for as long as necessary.
Even with the availability of the marketplace, the U.S. uninsured rate is nothing to brag about. There are still millions of people out there who do not have any health insurance coverage — and that remains a major problem. If you don’t have health insurance, learn more about your options for making a purchase. With the right approach, you can find an individual or family health insurance plan that suits both your budget and your coverage needs.