Open enrollment for health insurance begins Nov. 1

Published 12:17 pm Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The open enrollment period to purchase health insurance through the federal marketplace begins Nov. 1, and experts urge consumers to do some research about exactly what you are getting.

Last year, Tennessee’s uninsured rate was 9.3%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, said open enrollment enables people to buy affordable, comprehensive health insurance to protect their savings and their family.

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“One thing that I think many people are concerned about is, can they afford the premiums,” Johnson pointed out. “And in a wonderful way, the federal government is subsidizing the cost of premiums. And so, the vast majority of people who are applying will be able to get a plan for $10 a month or less.”

The Inflation Reduction Act included a provision to extend premium subsidies through 2025, so the same subsidy in effect this year will continue for 2024. Look online on HealthCare.gov to determine your eligibility.

Johnson said about 300,000 people are without health coverage across the state, as Tennessee has not expanded its Medicaid program, known as TennCare. The state has taken large numbers of people off the Medicaid rolls since the pandemic’s Public Health Emergency ended.

Johnson pointed out about 75% of those who have been dropped from Medicaid coverage are still eligible but were cut off due to procedural reasons.

“Depending on their income, they might be eligible to stay on Medicaid, which is free and comprehensive, and has certain protections that really are unmatched,” Johnson stressed. “But if their income has gone up and they don’t qualify for Medicaid anymore, they too should apply for the Affordable Care Act.”

Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer of Employer and Individual for UnitedHealthcare, said when shopping for new health coverage, comparing plans is critical. She recommended people pay close attention to the coverage for specialty benefits such as dental, vision, hearing, critical illness and mental health.

“You want to know what specifically, you’re going to have access to,” Randall explained. “How big is the network of therapists and psychiatrists, mental health professionals? Some employers offer navigation or advocacy services to help you find a good fit; somebody who has an appointment available, who has the right skills for the concern that you have.”

Randall noted the Medicare open enrollment period is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. She added it is important to learn the difference between Medicare Parts A, B, C and D, Medicare Advantage plans and prescription drug coverage. She recommended the website MedicareEducation.com as one source of this information.