Visiting Nurse Association: Time to sign up for health insurance again | CraigDailyPress.com

Visiting Nurse Association: Time to sign up for health insurance again

By Erin Gleason

Yes, it's already time for our community to start thinking about health insurance for 2015. Clients can re-enroll or sign up for the first time starting Nov. 15. The open enrollment period is half the time consumers had last year to get enrolled, so the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association encourages clients to get started as soon as possible.

What is Connect for Health Colorado?

Colorado State Legislature passed a law in 2011 that established Connect for Health Colorado, a nonprofit organization to build and operate a health insurance marketplace as an alternative to the federal health insurance marketplace, Healthcare.gov. Connect for Health Colorado aims to improve access, choice and affordability of health insurance and is the only place for Coloradans to get financial help (monthly tax credits and cost-sharing reductions) to lower the costs to consumers.

Who is eligible to buy health insurance through Connect for Health Colorado?

Anyone can buy health insurance through Connect for Health Colorado. However, in order to receive monthly tax credits to lower the cost of your premium, certain criteria must be met. You must:

• Be a United States citizen or legally present in the U.S.

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• File taxes jointly with your spouse (if applicable)

• Not have health insurance offered through your job or your spouses' job

• Qualify based on your adjusted gross income (roughly $46,000 per year individuals and $95,000 a year for a family of four)

Remember, clients who don't meet the above criteria can still shop on Connect for Health Colorado to see if they can find a better deal on a fully priced plan. Some clients find that premiums on the website are more competitive than paying for their employer plan, at least for their spouse and children.

What is open enrollment and what does it mean?

The next open enrollment period to purchase coverage for 2015 is Nov.15 through Feb. 15, 2015. This is half the time that Coloradoans had to shop and choose their plans last year, so start early. If you sign up by Dec. 15 and pay by Dec. 25, you will have coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2015. Anyone who pays their premium for January is enrolled in that plan for the entire calendar year, so make sure to shop around to get the best deal before you commit to your 2015 insurance. Those who enroll between Dec. 16 and 31 will have coverage beginning Feb. 1, 2015. Individuals and families can only enroll after Feb. 15 with qualifying life change event (like a new job, move or new baby). However, individuals can apply for Medicaid and/or CHP+ any time during the year. Be sure to set your appointment today.

How do I get started?

Go online to http://www.ConnectforHealthCo.com, call 1-855-PLANS-4-YOU to apply by phone or get free one-on-one local assistance with a Health Coverage Guide by calling Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, 970-871-7648 in Steamboat Springs or 970-871-7664 in Craig and ask to speak to someone about obtaining health insurance.

Is there a penalty if I don't sign up?

If you are uninsured for longer than three consecutive months the federal government will charge a penalty on your taxes. For most people, the penalty will be much higher than the $95 reported by the media. The actual penalty is 1 percent of an individuals' adjusted gross income per uninsured member of the household (children under 18 are penalized .5 percent). The penalty will increase to 2 percent in 2015 and 2.5 percent in 2016.

What do I need to do if I bought insurance last year?

You may be able to renew your current plan and you have an opportunity to compare the new plans and prices for 2015 beginning in November. The price of your premium and financial assistance will probably both change, so make sure to revisit the website and shop around to get the best deal. Watch for a renewal letter via mail or email from your carrier and Connect for Health Colorado. Please read and act on this letter to make sure you are enrolled in the best plan option for you and your family. If you have trouble understanding the letter, please contact the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association for guidance.

Can I get Medicaid instead of private health insurance?

Part of the legislation that created Connect for Health Colorado has also increased Medicaid benefits in participating states. Colorado expanded its Medicaid program to include adult individuals who are U.S. Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents that meet certain income requirements:

$1,300 per month for an individual

$1,750 per month for a family of two

$2,200 per month for a family of three

$2,650 per month for a family of four

If you're unsure whether you qualify for Medicaid or monthly tax credits to purchase a private health insurance policy through Connect for Health Colorado, call the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association today to make an appointment. One of our local Health Coverage Guides can help you determine your eligibility in a free, one-on-one appointment.

Erin Gleason is the Community Health Insurance Coordinator at Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.