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Make smart health insurance decisions

Jewell County Record of Mankato, Kansas

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If you haven't already, it's time to review your health insurance options, as annual open enrollment in the Kansas Health Insurance Marketplace for 2016 coverage began Nov. 1. Many employers and some public programs, such as Medicare also use the fall as a time for annual enrollment or the renewal of health insurance plans.

Marketplace enrollment continues through Jan. 31. The last day to enroll in or change plans for new coverage to start Jan. 1, 2016, is Dec. 15. The last day to enroll in or change plans for new coverage to start Feb. 1, 2016, is Jan. 15. If you wait to enroll by Jan. 31, that coverage will take effect March 1, 2016.

Delays in enrollment and coverage, and penalties, may apply if the consumer doesn't enroll at the appropriate time. While there are a few exceptions, the Affordable Care Act requires that you are insured for at least nine months out of every year, or you will have to pay a penalty at tax time for being uninsured.

Generally, you can only buy health insurance coverage during annual open enrollment periods. It is difficult to change coverage if you don't experience a qualifying life event, so it's best to take advantage of the open enrollment period. If you experience a qualifying life event, such as losing job coverage, getting married or having a child, you can change your health insurance outside of the open enrollment period in a special enrollment period.

It's recommended to review several aspects of insurance plans before you choose which one is right for your family.

Seek to understand your current health care needs and identify if you're at risk for a particular need within the next year. It is also valuable to have a clear visual of your financial state. Making a smart health insurance decision will depend on your health and your financial situation.

Determine which benefits are most important to you and your family. All plans are required to cover at minimum the same basic set of essential benefits, which are usual medical and hospital care needs and prescription medicines.

Check the drug formulary for your prescription drugs when looking at your options. Identify which health care providers and pharmacies you prefer to use and which ones are in the plan's provider network.

Weigh the costs of not only the premium, but also the deductible, coinsurance, and co payments for the plans you are considering. What costs are you comfortable paying? Do you have an emergency fund to cover expenses in case of sickness, job loss, or economic downturn?

All of these factors should be considered when deciding which policy best suits your needs. Remember, you cannot be denied health insurance coverage because of a pre-existing condition. You cannot have a policy canceled because you are sick. So, go ahead and make a smart health insurance decision!

To learn more about how to obtain insurance through the Marketplace visit You can call the Marketplace, available 24-7, at 800-318-2596. The Kansas Health Institute has resources at

To make contact with a Cover Kansas Navigator in your region, visit Navigators are trained, unbiased volunteers available to assist you with plan comparison and completing the Marketplace's online application.

In addition, K-State Research and Extension has a wealth of resources and tools to assist with making a smart health insurance decision. Contact your local Post Rock District office to access the many resources available or to schedule an appointment to discuss health insurance decision making.

Be sure to check this newspaper's web pages at jewellcounty news for pictures and stories not published in the printed edition.

Copyright 2015 Jewell County Record, Mankato, Kansas. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: November 5, 2015

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