Countdown to Coverage: It Pays to Shop Again to Renew

As we near the launch of the second Marketplace enrollment period this Saturday, uninsured consumers are gearing up to Stop, Shop, and Enroll. But what if you already have 2014 Marketplace coverage—do you also need to act during open enrollment?

In general, most people with existing 2014 Marketplace coverage will be automatically re-enrolled in their existing plan or a similar plan. Although automatically renewing is the easier option, the plan you chose last year may not be the best one for 2015. Texans will have more choices in the Marketplace and might be able to save money when choosing a new health plan that offers similar health care benefits and coverage. To ensure you are getting the best plan you can afford and the correct level of financial help, you should shop around in the health insurance marketplace and submit up-to-date income information by December 15, 2014.

Here are the basics of renewing Marketplace coverage and why it makes sense to re-evaluate your options each year.

Renew by December 15 for Coverage on January 1

All coverage in 2014 Marketplace plans will end on December 31, 2014. This is true even if your coverage started after January 1, 2014. To continue your Marketplace coverage, you have two options—renew your current plan or change to a new plan for 2015. If you do not make any change to your coverage by December 15, 2014, most people will be automatically re-enrolled in the same health plan they had for 2014 with a continuation of the same subsidy amount from 2014. If your insurer is not offering your existing plan in 2015, you’ll likely be auto-enrolled in a similar plan.

Watch for Renewal Notices

You’ll get two important notices related to renewal – one from your insurance company and one from the Marketplace. The letter from your insurance company will describe any plan changes for 2015 and contain your plan’s 14-digit plan ID number that you can use to re-enroll in your existing coverage. The letter from the Marketplace will let you know whether the default, if auto-enrolled, is the same subsidy you had in 2014 or whether you have to update your Marketplace application to maintain your financial assistance.

Update Financial Information to Maximize Savings and Subsidies

Regardless of whether auto-enrollment is an option, it is a good idea to update your financial information with the Marketplace and compare plan choices. If you don’t take these steps, you may not get a plan that meets your needs or the maximum savings available to you. Many things can change from year to year affecting your Marketplace decisions:

  • Your current plan may make changes to your coverage or provider network. For example, the premium or deductible for your current coverage could go up for 2015.
  • New plans could come into the Marketplace that are a better fit for you (4 new insurers are entering the Texas Marketplace for 2015).
  • You financial or family situation could change, affecting your subsidy level. You could qualify for additional financial assistance if you earn less or had a baby, for example. You could also qualify for less financial help and have to pay some of the subsidies back at tax time if you don’t keep your information on file with the Marketplace updated.

Even if you are automatically re-enrolled in your 2014 plan because you don’t take action by December 15, 2014, you can still change to a new 2015 plan through the end of open enrollment on February 15, 2015.

Other Timeline Dates to Remember

If you enroll in a new plan by January 15, your coverage will start on February 1.

If you enroll in a new plan by February 15, your coverage will start on March 1.

If you switch plans between January 1 and February 15, any amounts you’ve paid toward your deductible and out-of-pocket maximum under the initial plan do not necessarily apply to the new plan. Because of this, it is best to make needed health plan changes by December 15 so your new 2015 coverage can take effect on January 1.

For more information on renewal steps, see the Marketplace’s quick list of 5 Steps to Staying Covered through the Marketplace (PDF).

For help evaluating whether renewing your current coverage is the best option for you in 2015, see Families USA’s  Seven Questions To Ask When Buying or Renewing Coverage in the Marketplace.

Written by Stacey Pogue, Center for Public Policy Priorities. Cross-posted from Better Texas blog.