Open enrollment for individual health insurance starts Nov. 1 | CraigDailyPress.com

Open enrollment for individual health insurance starts Nov. 1

Craig Press staff report

Open enrollment for health insurance starts Nov. 1.

It’s insurance open enrollment time.

Open enrollment for individual coverage — coverage not from an employer — runs from Nov. 1 through Jan. 15. However, people who want coverage to start on Jan. 1 must enroll by Dec. 15. Enrolling from Dec. 16 through Jan. 15 will mean coverage will start on Feb. 1.

Colorado individual health insurance consumers can enroll through the state exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, through an insurance agent, or directly with an insurance company selling individual coverage. However, using Connect for Health Colorado is the only way to access tax credits and cost-sharing reductions that can bring down the cost of health insurance.

The Colorado Division of Insurance, part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies, reminds Colorado consumers to be vigilant about any health coverage options that are less than what they seem.

Alternatives to standard health insurance, such as short-term plans and health care sharing arrangements, have limitations consumers need to understand when shopping. Coloradans who are considering or ultimately enroll in such alternatives must be aware that these options do not offer full health coverage.

"My goal is for people to make their health coverage decisions with their eyes wide open," said Interim Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway. "There is a reason that these alternatives are cheaper. They cover less, and consumers may not see the savings they expect as they pay more out of their own pockets. Because marketing around these alternatives is likely to increase, I'm concerned that consumers will be lured by perceived lower costs."

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Conway encouraged people to be cautious and take the time to scrutinize their health coverage options. Find out how particular health needs will be covered, determine costs, and ask questions about prescriptions and doctors.

Those who need help determining what kind of questions to ask, or who just want assistance decoding the language of a health plan, are invited to contact the Division of Insurance Consumer Services at 303-894-7490, 800-930-3745, or dora_insurance@state.co.us.

Earlier this month, the DOI  reported that news for the individual market in 2019 is largely positive, with an overall average increase in premiums of only 5.6 percent. Many Coloradans can realize lower premiums in the individual market, and in some cases, pay even lower rates than they paid in 2018.  Additionally, consumers can expect the return of the same seven insurance companies for 2019 that sold individual plans for 2018.