When I first signed up for health insurance through Healthcare.gov, it was great.
I got a great plan from Humana for my husband and me for about $600 a month with a low deductible. It also included all of my doctors and prescriptions.
But this year, I got a letter from Healthcare.gov stating that my insurer was no longer offering my plan in my state. In fact, they were leaving the Health Insurance Marketplace entirely.
To make matters worse, another plan comparable to what I already had would cost an additional $450 a month. My monthly premiums would now be $1,050 a month for two healthy adults on a bronze plan. That’s the lowest tier of coverage offered through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Moreover, the new plan didn’t cover my current primary doctor or one of the medications I took regularly.
I’m shopping around for other insurance plans now, and I know I’m certainly not alone. Millions of people are looking for alternatives to Obamacare enrollment now that so many changes have taken place.
Here are a few different ways you can find options for health insurance that you can actually afford.
Issues with the Affordable Care Act
President Obama signed the ACA, also called Obamacare insurance, into law in March 2010.
It was designed to make insurance available to all, regardless of pre-existing health conditions or employment status. However, issues have plagued the initiative since it launched.
While the Obama administration intended the ACA to make health care more affordable, in some cases, it no longer is. Recent developments have caused premiums to spike and for some people to lose coverage altogether.
Many are questioning the viability of the ACA, too. In 2016, several insurance companies pulled out of the Health Insurance Marketplace, citing huge financial losses.
Aetna, UnitedHealth Group, and Humana all but stopped offering insurance plans. They only cover just a small fraction of counties across the country.
That development hurt the ACA hard and left millions of people–like me–scrambling to find a new plan they could afford.
With fewer options now in the Health Insurance Marketplace, many people face higher premiums and less coverage than they previously paid for.
How to find health insurance alternatives
However, even if you do not have access to an employer-offered health insurance plan, you have other options besides those offered through the Affordable Care Act.
Take some time and research alternatives during the Open Enrollment period, which ends on January 31, 2017. You could, in fact, end up saving money in the process. Here are a few options to get you started.
1. Look for a health insurance broker
An insurance broker can shop around for a policy for you and your family that meets the ACA minimum requirements. This will help you avoid paying the penalty for inadequate coverage.
A broker can also look for plans offered outside of the Health Insurance Marketplace, including from companies that do not participate in the ACA.
Check out the National Association of Health Underwriters to find a licensed health insurance agent near you.
2. Check out Costco
Costco doesn’t just offer a great deal on bulk items. It’s also a fantastic resource for individual and family health insurance policies.
Although you have to be a Costco member to be eligible for insurance, membership only costs $55 year. But it’s a worthwhile expense, trust me.
Many of their plans are more competitively priced than plans offered through the Health Insurance Marketplace. They also offer health insurance policies that satisfy the ACA requirements and plans that are supplemental.
Please note, Costco insurance is not available in all counties. So be sure to check online if you are eligible before signing up for a store membership card.
3. Get a catastrophic-only plan, accept the penalty
If you are young, relatively healthy, and do not often go to the doctor, you may not need a comprehensive insurance plan that covers wellness visits and preventative care.
But that doesn’t mean that health insurance isn’t important. It’s a buffer against unexpected (and sometimes costly) medical emergencies. If you’re in a car accident, for instance, hospital bills could bankrupt you.
A catastrophic-only plan can provide a necessary safety net at a fraction of the cost of a traditional plan. Even when combined with the ACA penalty, you could end up saving money.
I’ll admit, with my premiums now topping $1,050 a month for a basic plan, I’m starting to question whether I really need to see my primary doctor regularly. And if my husband and I go forward with the ACA plan, our annual premium will cost $12,600.
However, the penalty for going without insurance under the ACA is currently $695 per person. So the penalty for my husband and I to skip the ACA-qualifying coverage would be $1,390 for the year.
When I looked for a major medical-only plan, I found one for the two of us for $150 a month. That would bring our annual cost to just $1,800.
So even with the $1,390 penalty added on, our health care costs would be just $3,190 a year instead of $12,600. That’s a whopping annual saving of $9,410.
Of course, going that route is a gamble. If either of us experiences an ongoing health issue and needs regular care, we’ll have to pay for it out of pocket. And that can get expensive quickly.
But if we’re able to save over $9,000 next year, you can bet it’s an option we’re seriously considering.
Looking for healthcare
Trying to figure out how to find health insurance that is affordable and covers your needs can be challenging.
But it’s important to remember you have more options than just what the ACA offers. Don’t hesitate to shop around to get the best policy for you. Finding a viable alternative may help you stay on budget, too.
And if you want to find out more about factors that affect your health insurance costs and what you should know before selecting a plan, check out our comprehensive guide on the topic.
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