The incoming Trump Administration may well overhaul or replace the troubled Affordable Care Act. But nothing happens quickly in Washington, DC, so if you get your insurance through the ACA, your likely looking at a premium increase for 2017 – with a side order of higher deductible to go with that.
Here are some steps you can take to blunt your spiking rates. These moves may not work wonders, but they could give you some relief until the Republicans can devise and implement something better. You have until January 31, 2017 to make your elections, so start strategizing now.
Know what’s coming. You’ve probably seen reports that Obamacare premiums are going up an average of 22% for 2017. True enough. But in some areas they are absolutely skyrocketing. Phoenix participants in Obamacare will see a 147% rise in their 2017 premiums while those in Philadelphia will take a 51% hike. And, yes, in some areas, like Cleveland, rates are expected to fall slightly.
Insurance premiums are based, in part, on what insurers expect to pay out in claims. Those costs were probably severely underestimated in areas where rates are headed to the moon.
Be prepared for what’s coming. Go to your state’s Healthcare Exchange website and check out rates in your zip code. You can find that site through Healthcare.gov. You may experience heart palpitations when you see the number, but at least you will be mentally prepared (and maybe even more motivated) to shop for a new policy.
Healthcare.gov also has new tools to help you calculate your expected annual insurance costs, and find plans that cover the doctors and drugs that you need.
Check into a subsidy. Roughly 85% of the people who get their insurance through the exchanges are eligible for some level of government subsidy. Experts say about 2.5 million current Obamacare participants are eligible for a subsidy but never applied for it.
Subsidies may be available if your income is between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level.
Side note: If you’ve been paying full-price for your ACA insurance policy in 2016 and now think you might be eligible for a subsidy, you can apply for it as part of your 2016 tax return.
Use your subsidy as a gift card. The size of your subsidy will be tied to the cost of ACA Silver-level plans in your local area. But you can use your subsidy to offset the cost of any ACA plan. By applying your subsidy to a cheaper, high-deductible plan, you could really push down the cost of coverage.
Go barebones. If your medical needs are minimal, you might be able to find a cheaper policy by choosing a plan with high deductibles and/or a smaller network of providers. Of course, you may need to give up access to your favorite doctor or closest hospital in order to get that lower rate.
Again, this is no prescription for the terrible pain ACA participants are suffering. But I hope it provides a bit of relief until our lawmakers come to their collective senses and make needed changes to the well-intentioned but deeply flawed program.