As we get closer to Oct. 1, there is a lot of news and noise around the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While the new health plans created under the ACA are not effective until Jan. 1, 2014, the process of purchasing can begin on Oct. 1. In order to help our members understand the changes and how it may impact them, we sat down with Steve Kammeyer, director of Health Insurance Services for Farm Bureau, and asked him some questions.
Does the ACA impact me?
The simple answer is yes. It will affect almost everyone in some manner. However, there is really very little impact on those who are 65 and older who have Medicare coverage and a Medicare Supplement policy. Those covered under group plans through their employer should visit with their employer on what changes are in store. The bulk of changes come from those purchasing individual coverage and that is what we will discuss today.
What is the importance of the Oct. 1 date?
Oct. 1 is the first date of the Annual Election Period (AEP). The AEP is a period of time when you can purchase the new ACA compliant policies. The AEP this year runs from Oct. 1 through March 31, 2014. If you enroll between Oct. 1, 2013 and Dec. 15, 2013, you will have a Jan. 1, 2014, effective date. If you enroll later than that, your effective date will be later. In future years, the AEP is scheduled to run from Oct. 1-Dec. 7, with effective dates of Jan. 1. During this time, the insurance company must accept your application for coverage and there is no underwriting and no exclusions or denials because of health condition.
Is that the only time I can buy health insurance?
It is not the only time you can buy, but it is the only time you can buy without a qualifying life event. A qualifying life event can make you eligible for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). Examples of a qualifying life event include:
- Loss of coverage through your employer group or other group plan;
- Moving to a new state;
- Certain changes in your income;
- Changes in family size (marriage, divorce, birth of a child).
The only two enrollment options to buy individual health insurance are during the AEP or during an SEP which occurs because of a qualifying life event.
What options do I have?
If you have purchased a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE) policy through your Farm Bureau agent, you will have some options to consider. You have received or will soon be receiving a renewal package from BCBSNE. In that mailing you learned that you can no longer keep your current plan design and must move to a new ACA compliant plan. BCBSNE has mapped you into one of the new plans and that plan is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2014. You have a few options at this point:
- You can check the box indicating that you want to move to the plan you were mapped into, and you will be moved to that new plan on Jan. 1, 2014.
- You can also select to move to any other plan that BCBSNE offers and those options are all laid out in the communication you received from them. You simply have to mark the box of the plan that you would like to select and return it to BCBSNE, and you will be moved to that new plan on Jan. 1, 2014.
If you do nothing you will be automatically moved to the mapped plan on Jan. 1, 2014.
How do I know what is right for me and determine what I need to do?
There are many different things to consider when comparing the plans. The best thing to do is to contact your local Farm Bureau agent
. They are trained on the ACA as well as the new plans available. They can help you sort out your options and make the right decision for you and your family.
If you don’t currently work with a Farm Bureau agent, you can locate one by going to fbfs.com and use the agent locator tool
. They are standing by ready to help you with all of your insurance needs.
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