Archives For health insurance virginia

Open SignOctober 1 is here,  and the exchanges have officially opened.

As we expected, the opening of the exchanges came with technical glitches and system delays.  Both the Virginia and Maryland exchanges, like many across the country, had crashed by 9:00 am.

But, things will settle down, and you will be able to purchase health insurance for next year.  Remember, you have until December 15, 2013 to enroll in a plan effective January 1, 2014.

Despite what you may hear about buying health insurance being as simple as purchasing a plane ticket on a site like Expedia, our experience shows us this is not the case.  Technical glitches aside, the application process is complex, and the choices you will be presented with will likely be difficult to decipher.

Please contact us for help.  We are authorized to enroll people through the exchanges in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.  We can also assist with off-exchange plans.  Best of all, it costs you no more for our services!!

Here are three ways you can get started:

  1. Visit our website:  www.vamedicalplans.com  (click on “Get Quotes”)
  2. Send us an email: jkatz@vamedicalplans.com
  3. Give us a call: 1-800-867-0800

Please be patient as we work hard to respond to each and every inquiry.  As you can imagine, we are experiencing a high volume traffic at this time!

In the meantime, click here for our 7 easy steps to prepare for enrollment.

Dollar SignHow will health insurance premiums be calculated in 2014, under Affordable Care Act (ACA)?

A policy’s premium is the monthly fee paid to the insurance carrier for health insurance coverage.

In pre-ACA policies, insurance carriers can charge differing premiums based upon many factors including, most notably, a person’s age and current health status.  Today, the premium paid by someone with a medical condition is typically much higher than that of someone with no known medical problems.

Under ACA, starting January 1, 2014, premiums can vary based only on the following:

  • age (note: insurers can charge an older person no more than three times what they would charge a younger person for the same policy)
  • where a person lives
  • whether or not a person smokes

In addition, under ACA,

  • coverage cannot be denied for pre-existing medical conditions
  • coverage cannot be priced higher for someone who is overweight
  • coverage cannot be priced higher for someone in poor health

It is important to note that this discussion is only about PREMIUMS, not total cost of health care.  Typically, you can get a lower monthly premium by increasing the amount you will pay for your care at the time you visit the doctor, emergency room, hospital, clinic, or other medical provider.  This is known as cost-sharing and comes in the form of deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance.

Under ACA, the degree of cost-sharing for a particular policy determines its “level”.  Plans will be classified into four standard levelsbronze, silver, gold, and platinum.  Plans in the gold and platinum tiers will have lower deductibles — and higher premiums — than those in the bronze and silver tiers.

As you can imagine, then, looking only at the monthly premium when choosing a health insurance policy is probably not a good idea!  Be sure you fully understand the provisions of the coverage so you can decide the right balance for you, given your particular situation.

In addition, depending on your income level and household size, buying health insurance on your state’s exchange may entitle you to a subsidy, which could lower your premium considerably.

Let us know, by phone or email, if we can be of assistance to you as you select your coverage for 2014 — on or off the exchange, with or without a subsidy.

Large group of people standing in line

October 1 may become “Terrible Tuesday” as millions of Americans wait in a virtual line to access health insurance online and via phone.

We have been writing for several months urging you to be ready to act on October 1 — the date Open Enrollment begins for health insurance plans effective in 2014.

Everywhere you turn, you’re probably hearing that date in conjunction with Obamacare — the Affordable Care Act.

Well, guess what?  Have you ever stood in line at a popular store on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving)?  Ever lined up at the Apple Store to buy the newest iPhone on the day it was released?  (Our own Jon Katz has been known to do that!!)

At Virginia Medical Plans, we are beginning to think October 1 may be more like “Terrible Tuesday,” with a virtual mob scene of people trying to access health insurance online and over the phone.

As recently as this week, in fact, the Wall Street Journal reports technical glitches are expected to cripple the online marketplaces.  Even before the official opening of the exchanges, health insurance agents all over the country have been experiencing online crashes as they try to register with their state.

So we are adjusting our advice!

Waiting a couple weeks may be your best bet.  Let some of the technical glitches be worked out in those early days of October.  And avoid the mad rush that accompanies the “first day” of something so big.

Most of all, remember, we have until mid-December to get you enrolled in a plan with an effective date of January 1, 2014.

We are expecting a very heavy volume of calls and emails in the coming weeks, so please be patient as we work hard to respond to every one!

puzzleObamacare — the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — is here.  In less than 30 days the health insurance marketplaces will be open for business, and Americans will begin shopping for health insurance — some for the very first time.

But do people really understand what the Affordable Care Act is all about?

A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that, for half of the respondents, the answer is NO.  A large number of Americans simply do not understand the new law.

Unfortunately, people who are not in the know are left wide open to be victimized by scammers and con artists.  We’ve heard reports of unsolicited phone calls and fraudulent websites.

What kinds of scams are out there?

  • People asking for your personal information so they can mail you your insurance card.  There are no special insurance cards being issued as part of the implementation of ACA!  Anyone who tells you otherwise is a fraud.
  • Callers or websites claiming they can enroll you in health insurance prior to October 1, 2013.  Remember, enrollment for plans effective in 2014 begins on October 1, 2013.  Anyone who claims they can enroll you before that date is not telling the truth.
  • Offers from unfamiliar sources via phone, email, or text to sign you up for insurance through the exchange.  The exchanges will be run by government agencies.  They will not be contacting the public via phone, email, or text!  Be suspicious of anyone who claims they are calling from the exchange!
  • Requests for personal information.  NEVER GIVE OUT ANY PERSONAL INFORMATION like credit card numbers, bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, etc. to an unfamiliar caller or website.
  • False Caller ID displays. Today’s technology allows scammers to manipulate the number that appears on your Caller ID.

What should I do if I think I’m being scammed?

  • If you do get an unsolicited call from someone you don’t know about health insurance, do not give out any personal information.
  • When researching your options online, make sure you’re on a legitimate site.
  • File a claim with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) — www.ftc.gov or 877-382-4357.
  • Inform the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org/scam.

Be sure you’re protected by checking into the credentials of anyone you may deal with regarding health insurance.  Using the services of an experienced, licensed insurance professional is a good bet!

And remember, licensed professionals like Virginia Medical Plans can help you get your health insurance —  on or off the exchange!  Give us a call!