SCC urges Virginians to do their homework when shopping for health insurance
The open enrollment period runs from Nov. 1–Dec. 15, 2019. After this date, consumers may only buy ACA plans if special enrollment conditions apply to them. So don’t miss your chance to purchase the coverage you need.
Whether you are thinking about changing health insurance plans or purchasing new coverage, the State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance encourages Virginians to review their health insurance needs and thoroughly explore all their options.
“Not all health plans are the same, and some are not insurance,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. He encourages Virginians to protect themselves when shopping for health insurance by fully understanding the coverage, costs and protections before they sign up for any health plan. “Understand enrollment periods, what ACA-compliant plans must cover and where to turn for legitimate information. If you have questions, the Bureau of Insurance can help.”
Consumer protection laws govern some types of health coverage, such as plans purchased through an employer or through the federal health insurance marketplace. Other types of plans, such as a health care sharing ministry (HCSM) and discount plans, might be less expensive than health insurance plans subject to the ACA, but they are not insurance and do not offer the same protections as ACA-compliant plans.
Short-term, limited-duration (STLD) health insurance plans are not available through the health insurance marketplace, but they are regulated health insurance plans. While they may, in some cases, be less expensive than plans offered through the health insurance marketplace, they often cover less than ACA-compliant marketplace plans, may deny eligibility for coverage or exclude services because of pre-existing conditions, and may apply dollar limits on the amount they will pay.
Before signing up for any health insurance plan, the Bureau of Insurance encourages Virginians to carefully consider what health care services you and your family will need. Consumers should:
- Find out whether anticipated services are covered, and any limits on coverage under each health care coverage option they are considering.
- Check to see if their doctors and any medications consumers and their families need is covered by the plan being considered.
- Pay careful attention to monthly premiums, as well as costs that coincide with using health services, such as co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles.
Especially during open enrollment, please keep the following in mind:
- Do not provide personal information or agree to send money in response to unsolicited calls or emails.
- Ask for details of any health plan in writing – including cost and coverage – and make sure you understand what you are purchasing.
- In Virginia, www.healthcare.gov is the official website to buy ACA plans.
- For a list of companies recognized in Virginia as selling short-term, limited-duration plans, go to www.scc.virginia.gov/boi/pubs/stldplans.pdf.
- To verify that an insurance agent, agency or company is licensed in Virginia, visit the Bureau’s website at www.scc.virginia.gov/boi/ConsumerInquiry/default.aspx.
- The open enrollment period for the 2020 health insurance marketplace under the ACA ends December 15, 2019. Anyone contacting you to sell individual health insurance plans through an “enrollment period” outside of that is not selling an ACA-compliant policy.
- Be wary of telemarketers from the “national enrollment center,” “national healthcare center,” or other official-sounding name. The federal government will not call to sell you health insurance.
- Look for a disclosure indicating whether the health plan complies with the ACA.
For more information, contact the Virginia Bureau of Insurance toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or online at www.scc.virginia.gov/boi or see www.scc.virginia.gov/boi/pubs/HthAlts19.pdf. Use the tool at www.scc.virginia.gov/boi/pubs/hlthplan_compare.pdf to compare plans.