You’re probably aware that health plan open enrollment is in full swing. But did you know that a few things are different this year that’s making it extra tricky for consumers to navigate? Shorter enrollment periods, less awareness funding coupled with rates as much as 50% higher than last year; it’s easy to stress out over this big financial decision for your family. But don’t panic. Christians actually have twice as many options as anyone else—and they are faith-based, affordable and dependable. HealthValues, along with our trusted partners, has created a health care marketplace for Christians to help you take care of your family with smart, affordable choices. Before signing your name on the dotted line, compare faith-based plans and major medical plans side by side to find the health plan that’s best suited for your family, your prescriptions, your doctors and your values. You’re not alone this open enrollment; we are on your side.
What’s Different This Year
Since President Trump took office this past January, he has been promising to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Since no repealing or replacement has happened, Obamacare remains the law of the land. But he has made some changes that complicate the sign-up process for consumers. Here’s what you need to know.
- LESS TIME: The open enrollment period is shorter than last year. That means you only have until December 15th to sign up for a plan for next year. It’s already a busy time of year with the holidays, deadlines and end-of-year obligations so don’t let December 15th sneak up on you.
- LACK OF AWARENESS: The Trump administration has slashed the budget for advertising and awareness campaigns for open enrollment as well as navigator groups who previously helped people shop for plans.
- SERVICE GAPS: Planned maintenance shutdowns on Sundays from 12AM-7AM (except December 10th) will hinder those of you who are night owls in selecting health plans.
Shop Smart, Save Money
Regardless of the uncertainty in Washington, you can still save on health insurance if you shop smart. Here are a few tips from the pros.
Don’t put your plan on auto-pilot
It’s tempting to want to stick with one plan just because it’s easy, but doctor networks, prescription coverage, and your family’s health needs change every year and your plan choice should reflect that. In fact, 80% of plans have significant changes each year and you might not even know it. Insurance companies are frequently shifting things around to maximize their earnings—not necessarily your health. So resist the urge to auto-renew or opt for COBRA out of convenience. Trust us on this one. It’s a bad idea 99% of the time.
Additional options for Christians
There are several ways to purchase health insurance. When you shop at Healthcare.gov, you’re only seeing “on-exchange” plans. However, insurance companies only make a fraction of their plans available “on-exchange.” If you go directly to an insurance company’s website, you’ll see their “off-exchange” plans, which can be great options but keep in mind they don’t qualify for subsidies. For Christians, there are also affordable alternatives to traditional insurance like faith-based “medical sharing” plans and short term plans.
Faith-based plans like Medi-Share can be a great option for many believers—and it is limited to those of the Christian faith. Medi-Share is a non-insurance alternative to traditional health insurance that allows Christians to pool their resources and share the cost of each other’s health care bills. The result? The premiums are much more affordable and the PPO network is the most flexible network you’ll find on the individual insurance market. While it doesn’t qualify as health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, members of Medi-Share are exempt from the ACA penalty for not having health insurance.
Medi-Share is essentially doing what insurance companies used to do in terms of restricting their risk pool. They don’t take anyone who smokes, uses illicit drugs, etc. Christians aren’t necessarily healthier, but it turns out they are a lot less “risky,” and therefore less expensive to insure. Everyone must testify to their faith in Jesus Christ and provide a church reference that they are actively living a Christian lifestyle. You won’t be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions, but you have to join their “health partners” group which costs a little more ($80 each month). It’s also important to note that preventive care and vaccines aren’t covered either. This makes their underwriting so much cheaper and efficient compared to insurance companies who have to take anyone and everyone at the same price. An added bonus is that prayer requests are shared with the community so members can pray for each other. Through our marketplace for Christians, we can help you determine if a faith-based plan is a good option for your family.
Estimate your out-of-pocket expenses
Statistically, over 75% of your costs in the next year are predictable based on your known needs. What really drives costs, and therefore your plan choice, are the things you know about: prescriptions, doctors visits, therapy, medical equipment, etc. If you’re healthy, maybe you plan on none of these things–which is just as important to know. Our trusted partners help you quickly search for your prescriptions or run the numbers on expected health care needs like “physical therapy” or “having a baby.” While you can’t predict the future, it certainly offers peace of mind when you run through each anticipated scenario.
Don’t leave money on the table
One way to pay too much for health insurance is to overlook HSAs and tax credits. We see many individuals assume they’re not eligible for tax credits when they actually are. Depending on where you live, a family of 3 or 4 that makes $90,000 a year will likely qualify for a tax credit.
If you do make too much money for a credit, then you should probably consider using a Health Savings Account (HSA), which allows you to pay for your care with tax-free dollars. For high-earners in a higher tax bracket, that’s a 30% to 35% discount on health costs!
Stay in network
Most people have pretty strong opinions about keeping their beloved doctors, in particular OB-GYNs and pediatricians. Keeping these doctors in network is critical to keeping the bills under control. If you try to see a doctor that is out of network, your health plan won’t help very much or may not pay anything at all. Many people are familiar with “PPOs” and “HMOs” but there are actually several options in between that are worth considering.
PPOs offer the most flexibility—but they’re also the most expensive. If your doctors happen to be in an HMO or if you don’t have preferred doctors yet, the HMO can be a great money-saving choice. These aren’t the HMOs of the past with long wait times and long lines. You can get referrals online (check with your provider) and going to see some specialists (like an OB-GYN) no longer requires a referral.
Our trusted partner lets you quickly search for your doctor across all plan types and networks. Don’t waste time digging through each insurance company’s site or calling every doctor.
HealthValues Is Here For You
Finding an affordable health plan for your family is difficult and time-consuming. Between the fine print and insurance jargon, it’s easy to feel confused, taken advantage of and overwhelmed. The stakes are high too—your family’s well-being and financial security can depend on you making a smart choice. That’s where we come in. HealthValues takes the worry and stress away, guiding you through all of your options, backed with data, transparency and knowledge. Along with our trusted partners, we want to arm you with the tools and knowledge to be your own advocate.
Join a Christian community of like-minded individuals who share your beliefs and your values. Shop online or chat with one of our 3,000 local agent partners. Our advice is data-driven and unbiased. It’s personalized to your needs, your lifestyle, your prescriptions and your doctors. We want what’s best for you. The best part? It takes five minutes and its free.