The Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — is still in place for 2018, and almost everyone must have health insurance or pay a fee.

Open Enrollment for health insurance has begun. This is the time each year when Americans can enroll or change their health insurance plans. The Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — is still in place for 2018, and almost everyone must have health insurance or pay a fee.

Tom Dugger, executive director of Families and Communities Together (F.A.C.T.), suggests a helping hand:

“We are encouraging people to make an appointment to determine whether they qualify for tax credits for Affordable Care Act Marketplace health insurance plans.  Although insurance prices have increased, tax credits have also increased which could still make the plans affordable. We are available to assist people through this process at no cost.”

But, understanding health insurance and choosing the right health insurance plan can be a frustrating process. Here’s 5 things to know about your 2018 health insurance options:

1. Open Enrollment is Nov. 1 to Dec. 15

Open Enrollment to buy health insurance on your own at healthcare.gov is Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. Your health insurance plan will start Jan. 1, 2018. You can enroll online at healthcare.gov or by phone at 1-800-318-2596.

Medicare open enrollment is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year. You can enroll in Medicaid any time of the year if you qualify for the program.

2. You have a choice of health insurance plans at healthcare.gov

If you don’t get health insurance through your employer or a public program, such as Medicare or Medicaid, you can buy a plan on the Health Insurance Marketplace, healthcare.gov. The plans you see on healthcare.gov are owned and operated by insurance companies, such as Anthem and United HealthCare.

Insurance plans on healthcare.gov fall into four categories based on how costs of care are shared between you and the insurance company. The four plan categories are:

• Bronze – lower monthly cost but highest costs for health care services

• Silver

• Gold

• Platinum – highest monthly cost but lowest cost for health care services

3. You may be able to get financial help

Last year, eight out of ten people got financial help to pay for their health insurance through healthcare.gov. Financial help is based on your family size and income. To see how much you can save, go to healthcare.gov. Most people can get a plan for less than $100 a month.

4. Explore and compare your plan options to choose the best plan for you and your family

Whether you are re-enrolling or enrolling for the first time, compare your plan options. To choose the plan that balances your health care needs and budget, ask yourself these important questions about:

Cost:

• How much can I afford to spend on health insurance each month?

• How much can I afford to spend out-of-pocket on health care, such as copayments, deductibles, and co-insurance?

• Tip: If you know you’ll need a lot of health care, like seeing a doctor often, you may save money by choosing a plan with a higher monthly premium. If you are healthy and only need routine health care, you may save money by choosing a plan with a lower monthly premium.

Health care:

• Will you be able to use your current doctors?

• Will it cover your medicines?

• Are there special health services that you want a plan to cover?

• Tip: Look online at each plan’s provider network to see if your doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and other members are listed. Look online at each plan’s list of covered medicines, called a drug formulary to see if your medicines are covered and at what price. Look at each plan’s Summary of Benefits and Coverage to find out what health services are and aren’t covered.

5. You can get free, in-person help with health insurance

If you have questions about health insurance or are feeling stuck on healthcare.gov, you can get free, in-person help from trained assisters near you. Visit covermissouri.org or call 1-800-466-3213 to set up an appointment.

Don’t wait until the last minute to enroll.

Want more information about health insurance?

To talk to a local expert about health insurance or the Open Enrollment Period at no cost:

Families and Community Together (F.A.C.T.)

142 Jaycee Dr.

Hannibal, MO 63401

573-221-2285

http://www.mcfact.org/affordable_care-act.html

Hannibal Regional Hospital

6000 Hospital Dr.

Hannibal, MO 63401

573-629-3576

Clarity Healthcare

141 Communication Dr.

Hannibal, MO 63401

573-603-1460