By Marv Law, CLTC
There are several Qualifying Events that may occur which can make an individual eligible to apply for health insurance outside of the Annual Open Enrollment. In addition, there are short term medical plans, often at a lower cost, that can help bridge the gap between open enrollment periods. For some individuals these short term medical plans may be the only option available. However not everyone qualifies for these plans due to their medical history, and pre-existing conditions are generally not covered. Although these plans can provide valuable coverage if needed, they are not considered “Qualified Health Plans” and though the individual has health insurance, there may still be a penalty assessed for not having a “Qualified Health Plan.”
The time between open enrollment periods is a good time to evaluate your health insurance strategy and be prepared for the next open enrollment to implement the most cost effective solution for your personal circumstances. So although health insurance options between open enrollments are somewhat limited, there are other opportunities available during this time for individuals to improve their coverage if they already have a qualified health plan. These options are sometimes called “health insurance that pays you”. These include coverage that pays the insured individual in the event there is a critical illness or hospitalization. With these policies, the individual can choose to use the “cash payments” from the insurance in whatever way they desire. This money is paid to the insured individual when it is needed the most – when hospitalized or being treated for a critical illness, experiencing work and income interruption.
With the new health plans, many people are experiencing higher deductibles and out of pocket expenses, especially for those on one of the Bronze level plans. So the supplemental policies that pay the insured directly can be used to offset some of those out of pocket expenses, and sometimes possibly all of the expenses if hospitalized or diagnosed for a critical illness such as cancer, stroke and heart attack. The payments from this insurance can also be used to pay non-medical bills, such as mortgage, utilities and groceries. The ability to pay these expenses can often be crucial in protecting individuals and families from foreclosures and bankruptcies in the event they are unable to work because of a serious health issue.
Another option to enhance health insurance protection between the open enrollment periods is “Income Protection”. In the event of a short or long term health issue that prevents a person from working, these disability policies can make a significant difference in a person’s life. These plans can be custom designed to the needs, concerns and budgets of each individual. Since there is never a single company or plan design that is right for everyone, it is important to have a no-cost consultation with an experienced independent professional who can make meaningful recommendations.