On Thanksgiving and the Halfway Mark of Open Enrollment

Posted: November 22, 2018

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A Message from Commissioner Cory Gustafson, Department of Vermont Health Access

Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude, family, and fun. Many of us are about to experience the classic images and conversations of this holiday – turkey, football, weather – but let me suggest an additional topic to discuss once your dinner party has exhausted the usual dialogs.

Health insurance.

This Thanksgiving holiday weekend is halftime in the six-week Open Enrollment period for health insurance marketplaces. Vermonters have until December 15th to learn about their options and make sure they get the best deal. Now is a good time to let people know the importance of health insurance and have them sign up for peace of mind in 2019.

There is a lot of help available too. Most uninsured Vermonters qualify for financial help to lower the cost of health insurance, and due to a complex set of policy changes, the federal government is providing a lot more financial help in 2019. For example, a couple earning $50K can get a health plan for $19 per month – or 92% off what that same plan would have cost them in 2018 ($231). Many uninsured folks will even qualify for zero-premium plans. That’s something to be thankful for.

It's important to do your homework. Maybe you have a cousin who already gets insurance through the marketplace but doesn’t pay close attention to the details? Tell them this is the year to pay attention. It is true that – as long as bills are paid on time – they will automatically be renewed into the 2019 version of their 2018 plan, but this is not the year to assume that last year’s plan is still the best deal.

Some plans have jumped in price while others have barely budged. For example, if your cousin qualifies for financial help, they can likely save more than $1000 in lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs by switching to a different option. Those that do not qualify for financial help might be able to pay less by enrolling in similar plans directly with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont or MVP Health Care. Urge people to check out the Plan Comparison Tool at http://vt.checkbookhealth.org. The 2019 tool has already been used more than 18,000 times and is helping Vermonters narrow down the best options for their needs and budget.

During Open Enrollment, we are focused on working together to enroll as many qualifying Vermonters as possible. As individuals, Vermonters are better off when they aren’t at risk of medical bankruptcy. Collectively, we’re better off -- and our state’s health care system is stronger -- when there is less uncompensated health care. In this time of giving, please give others motivation and information. Help them make informed decisions about one of the most important purchases they will make in the next month. Have a safe and happy holiday season.

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