Where can consumers find help with health insurance?
Where to find help
Many consumers have anxiety about getting health insurance right. There are several different strategies available for health coverage, but few comprehensive resources to help consumers evaluate their options.
Further, the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, one of the groups in Tennessee that helps consumers with health insurance, announced earlier this month that it won’t apply for federal funding to help consumers find coverage in 2019.
Through the Affordable Care Act, groups could apply for federal funding to train “navigators” to help consumers find, compare and enroll in health insurance. Funding for the program has been reduced, and the Tennessee Health Care Campaign said it would not compete with another navigator group in the state — Family and Children’s Services — for the funding.
As a result, already low resources for consumers will be further reduced. At the same time, many consumers in Tennessee will have more options than in previous years, including Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) plans, short-term plans, and non-ACA options.
This means more consumers will be in a position to make decisions between different kinds of coverage and will likely be looking for good advice. Despite a reduction in navigator services, there are still some places where consumers can find help.
Here are a few of these options.
Family and Children’s Services
Family and Children’s Services is the lead agency for Get Covered Tennessee, a navigator program that provides outreach, education and enrollment assistance across the state. Consumers can call 615-724-1339 to schedule an appointment with a navigator.
Navigators can help consumers evaluate their Affordable Care options, but they may not be able to provide assistance in enrolling in plans not offered through Obamacare. Whether you should choose an Obamacare plan or a different type of coverage will depend on your personal situation, including health status and income.
Some insurance brokers will help individuals find and sign up for individual health coverage. If you have a relationship with a broker for other types of insurance, you may want to ask if they provide any assistance in this area.
eHealthinsurance is an online marketplace and quoting tool for individual health plans. Consumers can search for a variety of coverage types, including short-term and major medical plans. However, this marketplace generally only shows plans offered by carriers that pay commissions — so it may not show all of your options.
Healthcare.gov will show all available Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, plans. Depending on your income, these plans may be subsidized. However, Healthcare.gov will not show non-ACA plans, which are typically cheaper.
Farm Bureau Health Plans
Some consumers in Tennessee can access options from Farm Bureau Health Plans, which are not ACA-qualified. These are generally less expensive, but the plans are underwritten, which means Farm Bureau can deny consumers who have pre-existing conditions. Many consider the fact that the Farm Bureau plans are not ACA-qualified to be less important in 2019 than in prior years because the penalty for not having an ACA-qualified plan will be zero in 2019. In prior years, that penalty could run into the thousands of dollars.
Increasingly, more and more financial advisers are recognizing the role health care plays in financial planning and are offering health care and health insurance advice to clients. If you have a financial adviser that you work with, consider asking if they can help you evaluate your options and enroll in a plan.
A reoccurring theme across these resources is that most do not provide a full review of all the different plans you may have available. Savvy consumers may want to research health plans using two or more resources to get a comprehensive sense of your options.
This column was originally published in The Tennessean.
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