Deadline to buy health insurance fast approaching

OMAHA (Dec. 16, 2013) –  Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE) encourages Nebraskans to pay close attention to fast-approaching deadlines on buying health insurance coverage and making sure the first month is paid by Jan. 10.

Dec. 23 and Jan. 10 are two key dates for those wanting a health insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for coverage to be in effect on Jan. 1.

By Dec. 23, consumers must complete an application for coverage from the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. To shop for a plan, consumers can go to healthcare.gov or contact an insurance company or local agent to help them select an ACA-approved policy.

By Jan. 10, consumers must pay their first month’s premium. If payment is not received by then, coverage must be canceled by law and applicants will have to re-enroll at healthcare.gov.

The original payment deadline was Dec. 31. However, new federal guidelines announced last week have allowed insurance companies to extend those deadlines.

For those applying for a 2014 Marketplace plan from BCBSNE, payments can be dropped off between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays at the BCBSNE Omaha offices at 1919 Aksarben Dr. and 2707 N. 118th St., and its Lincoln office at 1233 Lincoln Mall, Suite 100. Both Omaha locations also have outside drop boxes for payments.

BCBSNE recommends that Nebraskans make decisions sooner rather than later to avoid a time crunch around the deadlines.

“We want to make sure people who need insurance are covered beginning Jan. 1,” said Tom Gilsdorf, BCBSNE’s director of product development. “We encourage them to not delay and shop for a plan well ahead of the deadline.”

The ACA requires most Americans to have health insurance coverage in 2014.

Many Nebraskans with current BCBSNE individual/family policies have an option of staying on their existing 2013 plans in 2014, or switching to an ACA-approved plan. The open enrollment deadline to buy a plan under the ACA is March 31, 2014.

After March 31, consumers will not be able to obtain health insurance coverage under the ACA for 2014, unless there is a special enrollment event (e.g. policy holder adds a dependent through marriage or the birth of a child). Open enrollment for 2015 begins Nov. 15, 2014.

ACA-approved plans typically are more comprehensive than others, offering 10 essential health benefits. And only ACA-approved plans offer an opportunity for consumers to receive financial assistant.

For more information, Nebraskans can call BCBSNE at 888-592-8960.

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For more information, contact Nathan Odgaard, (402) 982-6528.

HEALTH INSURANCE TERMS

Affordable Care act

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), sometimes called Obamacare, is a federal law designed to make health care more affordable, accessible and of higher quality.

COINSURANCE

The percentage of the bill you pay after your deductible has been met.

COPAY

A fixed amount you pay when you get a covered health service.

DEDUCTIBLE

The annual amount you pay for covered health services before your insurance begins to pay.

emergency care services

Any covered services received in a hospital emergency room setting.

health insurance marketplace (exchange)

The government Website (healthcare.gov) where you can purchase health insurance and see if you qualify for a tax credit (subsidy) to help pay premiums and out-of-pocket costs. 

in-network provider

A provider contracted by your insurance company to accept an agreed upon payment for covered services. 

OUT-OF-network provider

A term for providers that aren’t contracting with your insurance company. (Your out-of-pocket costs will tend to be more expensive if you go to an out-of-network provider.)

out-of-pocket

Your expenses for medical care that aren’t reimbursed by insurance, including deductibles, coinsurance and co-payments.

penalty

If you can afford health insurance, but choose not to buy it, you must have a health coverage exemption or pay a tax penalty on your federal income tax return.

premium

The amount you pay to your health insurance company each month. 


Preventive services

Health care services that focus on the prevention of disease and health maintenance.

rehab SERVICES

Services and devices to help you recover if you are injured or have surgery. This includes physical, occupational and speech therapy.

special enrollment period

The time after the Open Enrollment Period when you can still purchase health insurance only if you have a qualifying life event (losing other health coverage, having a baby, getting married, moving).

specialist

A physician who has a majority of his or her practice in fields other than internal or general medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics or family practice.

SUBSTANCE ABUSE DISORDER SERVICES

Includes behavioral health treatment, counseling, and psychotherapy.

tax credit

Financial assistance from the government that helps those who are eligible pay for health insurance. Eligibility is generally determined by household income and family size.

Tiered benefit plan

A health care plan featuring multiple levels of benefits based on the network status of a particular provider.