By Monica Bryant, Esq.,
Chief Operating Officer, Triage Cancer

 

Lately, there has been a lot of news about open enrollment for health insurance coverage for 2018 and Triage Cancer wants to try and clear up any confusion.

Open enrollment is the time of year when consumers have the opportunity to sign up for new health insurance coverage or renew an existing plan for the coming year. Typically, this is the only time of year you get to make changes to your coverage unless you experience a life changing event (e.g., move states, stop working, etc.).

  1. For those of you with health insurance coverage through an employer, open enrollment periods will differ by employer, but many occur around this time of year. Contact the person at your job who deals with employee benefits for more information. If you are given more than one choice between plans through your employer, watch our webinar recording on how to pick a health insurance plan.
  2. Open enrollment to buy coverage for 2018 through the State Health Insurance Marketplaces has been cut from 12 weeks to just 6 weeks, running from November 1 to December 31. However, the open enrollment dates may be different for some people:
    1. If you live in one of the states below, your open enrollment period is different:
      • California – November 1 to January 31
      • Colorado – November 1 to January 12
      • D.C. – November 1 to January 31
      • Massachusetts – November 1 to January 31
      • Minnesota – November 1 to January 14
      • Washington – November 1 to January 1
    2. If you were affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, or Maria, you also have access to special enrollment periods (SEP), which extends the time you have to get coverage in 2017 or enroll in coverage for 2018.
      • Group A:
        • Timing: The date of the SEP qualifying event through December 31, 2017.
        • Eligibility: Individuals who experienced an SEP qualifying event between 60 days prior to the start date of the incident period and December 31, 2017 and reside, or resided at the time of the hurricane, in any of the counties declared as meeting the level of “individual assistance” or “public assistance” by FEMA.
        • What to do: Contact the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596.
      • Group B:
        • Timing: December 16, 2017 through December 31, 2017.
        • Eligibility: Individuals who reside in or move from areas affected by a hurricane in 2017, who are applying for 2018 coverage.
        • What to do: Contact the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 to request an enrollment after December 15, 2017.

Medicare open enrollment occurs each year for people to enroll or switch Medicare plans and prescription drug plans. Medicare open enrollment runs from October 15 to December 7, but the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have announced a special enrollment period to give people more time to enroll due to the recent hurricanes:

  • Timing: From the start of the incident period through December 31, 2017.
  • Eligibility: Individuals who reside, or resided at the start of the incident period, in an area for which the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has declared an emergency or a major disaster; individuals who do not live in the affected areas but rely on friends or family members who live in the affected areas for help making health care decisions.
  • What to do: Contact 1-800-MEDICARE to access the special enrollment period. Click here for more information.

Remember, with both Medicare and Marketplace plans, when you sign up for coverage in open enrollment, your coverage won’t actually start before January 1, 2018.

If you need coverage now, visit www.CancerFinances.org or watch our webinar recording on how to pick a health insurance plan, to see if you have other options.

Even if you want to keep the same plan that you had last year, it’s a good idea to go back to the Marketplace, review your employer-sponsored options, or check your Medicare plan and make sure that the same plan will be available 2018 and the costs haven’t changed drastically. You may also find there are other options available that better meet your news or reduce your costs.

For more information about navigating health insurance, the financial impact of cancer, and other cancer survivorship topics, visit http://TriageCancer.org.

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Monica Bryant
Joanna Morales and Monica Bryant are cancer rights attorneys, speakers, and authors, working to improve access to and availability of quality information on cancer-related issues. They are co-founders of Triage Cancer, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing education and resources on cancer survivorship issues.