5 Ways to Help You Stay Healthy This Holiday Season

The holidays are going to look a lot different this year due to COVID-19.

Every year millions of Americans pile into each other’s homes to celebrate the season with food, family, and football. That urge has never been stronger than this year. With millions of people working from home and many states enacting safer-at-home measures, Americans are feeling the financial, physical, and mental health effects of living in a coronavirus-infected world.

But in addition to practicing social distancing, there are several things you can do to remain healthy while minimizing the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 (or any illness).

1) Consult local, state, and federal guidelines and restrictions before traveling.

According to the CDC, “travel increases the chance of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others.” And as COVID-19 cases continue to spike throughout the country, many experts are urging Americans to avoid holiday travel.

Many states are imposing new limitations on gathering sizes, extending mask mandates, and even issuing mandatory quarantine periods (or negative COVID-19 test) for people traveling from other states. If you or your loved ones are considering traveling internationally during the holidays, please be sure to make sure the country you are traveling to is granting entry to travelers from your point of origin.

2) Embrace video chat.

Technology can help us feel connected to our loved ones when we can’t be there in person—something that has proven to be essential for so many people this year.

Video calls have skyrocketed in popularity this year professionally and personally. Zoom did its part to bring people together safely by lifting their 40-minute limit on free meetings for Thanksgiving Day this year.

Consider using video chat services or avoiding in-person contact altogether through the holidays if you or a family member are at a high risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus.

3) Do your holiday shopping online.

You may want to consider skipping the check-out lines this year and put your health first by shopping for gifts online.

Traditional brick and mortar stores will still be dangerous areas despite heightened cleaning measures. The CDC has listed “Going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving” as a higher-risk activity.

Due to the anticipated surge of online shoppers this season, many big-name retailers have announced changes to their traditional holiday sales such as online-only sales, online pick-up options, and more.

4) Wear a mask around others.

Studies continue to affirm the effectiveness of wearing a mask in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19. And both local and federal government branches have cited the importance of wearing a mask when around other people who do not live in your home. So if you find yourself going out in public or spending time with friends and family, consider wearing a mask to protect yourself and others.

5) Find the right health insurance coverage.

Modern medicine has yet to fully discover the long-term effects of COVID-19 but there are many health conditions scientists can already link to the virus.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “COVID-19 symptoms can sometimes persist for months. The virus can damage the lungs, heart and brain, which increases the risk of long-term health problems.”

Having health insurance coverage for you and your family can help cover the cost of both major and preventative medical care – and now is the best time to get coverage. The annual individual health Open Enrollment period began on November 1 and runs through December 15.

This is the only time of year to enroll in ACA-compliant health coverage unless you experience a Qualifying Life Event.

For more information on health insurance or to start shopping available plans, visit the individual health insurance page today.

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How We Help Members Through the Individual Health Insurance Open Enrollment Process

Shopping for something as important as health coverage can feel overwhelming—especially if you’re looking for a plan to help protect your whole family.

With the health insurance landscape changing every year, we know that it can be difficult to stay on top of which carriers and plans are available, so we do all that for you.

Tap Into Our Knowledgebase

By scheduling a 15-minute appointment with one of our licensed benefit counselors you’ll gain access to experts with vast industry insight—who are have studied state regulatory changes and are familiar with the latest available coverage options. Our counselors take the time to get to know your needs, concerns, and budget, to help find you the right plan, not just any plan.

Preparing for Your Appointment

After scheduling your appointment, you’ll want to gather the following information:

  • The basics: your address, phone number, date of birth, SSN, household size, income level
  • Plan and premium details for any employer-based plan available to you or your household
  • List of current medications
  • Name and zip code of the current healthcare providers that you’d like to continue using
  • Payment information

Having this information ready when your counselor calls will help them efficiently guide you toward the best coverage for your needs.

Taking the Next Step

This year’s Open Enrollment period is November 1 – December 15. If you enroll in an ACA-compliant health insurance plan during this period, the effective date will be January 1, 2021. This is the only time of year to receive ACA-compliant health insurance coverage, unless you were to experience a qualifying life event.

If you’re ready to see what the 2021 individual health insurance marketplace has to offer, we recommend scheduling an appointment with a licensed benefit counselor now. (Appointment availability becomes more limited beginning in the second half of November.)

For more information or to start shopping plans, visit the individual health insurance page today.

adult couple reviewing bills and open enrollment materials

4 Myths About the Individual Health Insurance Open Enrollment Period

We’ve heard a lot of Open Enrollment myths over the years and want to set the record straight.

Myth #1 “There are fewer insurers to choose from.”

Many carriers who initially fled the federal exchange have returned and now offer plans alongside others who have entered the marketplace. This increase in the number of plans being offered has allowed many individuals and families to re-examine their needs and adjust their coverage amounts accordingly.

In addition to having access to the same carriers and plans listed on the federal exchange, the AOA Insurance Marketplace can offer members even more options. To view the full range of available ACA-compliant health plans, please visit https://osteopathic.memberbenefits.com/.

Myth #2 “The premiums are too expensive.”

Now that the federal exchange marketplace has stabilized, there may be lower-cost options for ACA-compliant health plans than past Open Enrollment periods. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield has filed for a 2.03% decrease in premiums in Texas.

Even if your coverage needs remain the same, you may be able to find a lower premium being offered by a different insurer. We recommend always reviewing the health insurance options available to you during the annual Open Enrollment period.

Myth #3 “You’ll be penalized at tax time for not having insurance.”

In previous years, if an individual did not have health insurance for more than 2 months of the year and did not qualify for an exemption they would face a tax penalty of $695 or 2.5% of their taxable income (whichever amount was greater). As of January 1, 2019, the tax penalty known as the individual mandate has been repealed, though some states may still enforce penalties on individuals who don’t have health insurance.

Myth #4 “Applications are processed instantly.”

On average, our team will process an enrollment application within 24 business hours and submit it to the carrier. Once the application is with the carrier, their team will take over and require an additional 10-15 business days to process the application.

The carriers often get overwhelmed with applications during the Open Enrollment period, so we recommend enrollees submit their health insurance applications as early as possible.

Securing ACA-Complaint Coverage for 2020

This year, Open Enrollment runs from November 1 through December 15 with a coverage effective date of January 1, 2020. This is the one time of year where individuals and families can enroll in ACA-compliant health insurance plans.

Ready to start shopping? Visit https://osteopathic.memberbenefits.com/ to shop ACA-compliant health plans today.

Not sure where to start? Schedule an appointment with one of our licensed benefits counselors and let us walk you through finding the best health insurance fit for your needs.

2020 Open Enrollment Webinar invite

Upcoming 2020 Individual Health Insurance Open Enrollment Webinar

Join us for a free webinar on Tuesday, October 29 from 12:00pm-12:30pm EDT, where we’ll review the upcoming 2020 Individual Health Insurance Open Enrollment period and cover topics such as important dates, preparation tips, industry updates, and more! Reserve your spot by registering today. Can’t make it to the webinar? Register anyway and we’ll send you a link to the video replay later that day.

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Knowing Your Options Outside of Open Enrollment

While the annual Open Enrollment period focuses on ACA-compliant individual major medical insurance, there are still other forms of insurance available for potential enrollees.

Knowing Your Options

According to healthinsurance.org, “ACA-compliant coverage refers to a major medical health insurance policy that conforms to the regulations set forth in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)…This means they must include coverage for the ten essential benefits with no lifetime or annual benefit maximums, and must adhere to the consumer protections built into the law.”

Unless you qualify for a special enrollment period, you cannot receive ACA-compliant individual health insurance coverage outside of the annual Open Enrollment Period, which typically runs from November 1st until December 15th of each year.

If you missed out on Open Enrollment but still need individual health insurance, you still have a few options available:

  1. COBRA

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under certain circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events. Qualified individuals may be required to pay the entire premium for coverage up to 102 percent of the cost to the plan.”

  1. Qualifying Life Event (QLE)

There are certain life circumstances called Qualifying Life Events (QLEs) that can qualify you for a special enrollment period. Special enrollment periods allow you to obtain ACA-compliant health coverage outside of the annual Open Enrollment period for you and your eligible dependents. The most common QLEs pertain to:

  • Loss of health coverage
  • Changes in household
  • Changes in residence

If you find yourself matching any of the above circumstances or feel your unique circumstance should qualify you for a special enrollment period, please contact us and our team will help guide you in the right direction based on your individual needs.

  1. Non-ACA Compliant plans

Non-ACA compliant plans, also referred to as short-term medical plans, have recently become more appealing to a growing number of people due to their lower rates. According to the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation, “Late last year (2017), President Trump issued an executive order directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to take steps to expand the availability of short-term health insurance policies, and a proposed regulation to increase the maximum coverage term under such policies was published in February.”

So, what separates the ACA-compliant health plans from the ones that are not? One of the biggest factors being the ACA’s ten essential health benefits. Non-ACA compliant plans do not need to adhere to the numerous rules and regulations laid out in the Affordable Care Act.

Last Chance to Enroll

Last Chance to Enroll in Individual Health Insurance for 2017

Don’t wait until it’s too late to get your individual health coverage for 2017. Open Enrollment for Individual Health Insurance ends on January 31st. If you haven’t enrolled in a plan by this date, you may be stuck with your current coverage or no coverage for the remainder of the year unless you have a qualifying life event. Schedule an appointment with a licensed benefits counselor or start shopping today to make sure you are covered.

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How To Get Health Coverage Outside Of The Open Enrollment Period

How to get Health Coverage Outside of the Open Enrollment Period

Your Guide to Understanding Qualifying Life Events and Special Enrollment

 

Life happens, and when it does, it is very likely that your Health Insurance coverage may need to change. When you encounter a Qualifying Life Event (QLE) that impacts your insurance needs, it is important to know that you can take advantage of a special enrollment period – since most people are unaware that they may enroll outside of Open Enrollment.

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