Covered California Health Benefit Exchanges Open for Business

Today, Tuesday Oct. 1st, Covered California, the State Individual Exchange, and SHOP, the State’s Small Business Exchange, will open for business.
Although they will open for business, the Exchange plans and rates may or may not be available for comparison on Tuesday. We will have to wait and see. As of Monday, none of the carriers have released their rates online on the quote engines. Even if Covered CA does have rates on their website tomorrow, many of the carriers may not have their non-Exchange plans available. We may not be able to see a complete picture of the marketplace until all plans are released and available online through the quote engines.
Once all the rates are available, then your certified insurance agent will be able to help you by running comparison reports of all the available options. We will be able to provide one-stop shopping of all plans available in the marketplace, inside or outside of the Exchange.
Just to recap. The two Exchanges account for only one portion of the total marketplace. There will also be individual health plans and group health plans available outside of these 2 State exchanges. Carriers that offer standardized (or metallic level) health plans within the Exchanges, also have to offer these same identical plans outside of the exchanges, and at the same prices. However, outside, carriers may also offer a broader selection of plans, in addition to the metallic plans.
Consumers and businesses are free to choose health plans either within the exchanges, or outside. But if you want to apply for a tax credit or subsidy, either as an individual or as a business, then you have to apply for a plan within one of the exchanges.
Comparing Health Plans
One thing to remember when comparing standardized metallic plans across different insurance carriers and when compared against non-standardized plans. Since benefit levels and coverage are regulated and standardized, there will not be much difference when comparing metallic plans across carriers. However, insurance carriers are still allowed to vary premiums and provider networks. These two will be the two most important features to pay attention to when comparing carriers.

Decision Time For Small Employer Groups (50 or fewer employees)
If you have an existing Small Group Plan, the following are some possible options that you may need to decide:
• Do nothing. Allow your plan to renew at the regularly scheduled renewal date in 2014. At that time, all ACA regulations and prices will be imposed. (An exception would be grandfathered plans prior to 3/23/2010).
• Renew early on Dec. 1st. Take advantage of carriers’ promotional RAF’s. Lock in rates and plans for 12 months. Delay impact of most of ACA-imposed regulations.
• Use Dec. 1st Early Renewal to change plans and lock in rates for 12 months.
• Use Dec.1st carrier RAF promotions to change to a more favorable rate or plan at another carrier.
• Renew on Jan. 1st to change to an ACA-compliant plan, and accept new rules on probation and family ratings.
• Change to another carrier on Jan. 1st or later (even after you have early renewed on Dec. 1st).
• Ask your Tax Advisor to help you calculate if your company may qualify for a Tax Credit. If so, you may want to consider buying an Exchange and ACA-compliant plan on Jan. 1st.

These decisions are complicated. Circumstances vary and every company’s options are different. You should consult with a certified insurance agent before making a decision.
Decision Time For Individuals and Families
If you already have an existing individual health plan. You may have to decide on one of these possible options. The following example is based on someone on an Anthem Blue Cross plan:
5. Do nothing. Allow Anthem to map your current plan to a comparable 2014 ACA-compliant plan on Jan. 1st. You will still have the opportunity, until March 31, to change to any other plan, inside or outside the Exchange.
6. If you have a grandfathered plan (prior to March 23, 2010), you may keep your plan and remain unchanged, except for the rate.
7. Use Anthem’s calculator tools online to compare plans and decide whether to change plans or not, and if so, whether to move to an Exchange or Non-Exchange plan.
8. Use the Covered CA Exchange’s online subsidy calculator to estimate if you and your family may qualify for a subsidy. If so, you may want to consider applying for an Exchange plan for Jan. 1. (Please keep in mind that if you apply for a subsidy, you will be required to disclose financial, personal and tax return info, which will be verified by different Govt. entities.)

These decisions are complicated. Circumstances vary and every individual’s options are different. You should consult with a certified insurance agent before making a decision.

• Anthem will be providing online decision tools:,
• The Exchange’s Covered California website will provide calculator tools for estimating if you might be eligible for a subsidy.
• Your certified insurance agent will have powerful online Quote Engine tools to help you compare all plans in the marketplace, both inside and outside the Covered CA Exchange.
• Please remember that everyone’s personal situation is different. What may be the right move for a friend or family member may not be the right move for you. You have to tailor the decision to your own circumstances.

Key dates to remember:
• 10/1/2013 — Carriers release their 2014 Rates and Plans, for plans inside as well as outside the Covered California Exchange.
• 1/1/2014 — Implementation of the ACA (or Obamacare). All plans sold with this effective date or later must be ACA-compliant.
• 10/1/2013 – 3/31/2014 — Open Enrollment Period for all Individual and Family plans.
• 3/31/2014 — Last effective date to enroll into an Individual/Family plan without a special qualifying event.
• 10/15/2014 – 12/6/2014 — Open Enrollment Period for 1/1/2015 plans.

Phil Lee

About Phil Lee

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