By Gary Skeen
Don’t wait to investigate your 2015 Health Care Options
“Fortune favors the prepared,” Louis Pasteur
If there are two messages I have for church leaders, pastors and staff about Healthcare in 2015, it’s these: your decision-making time is shorter this year, basically between now and December 15, and doing nothing or using automatic enrollment might not be your best option.
Despite uncertainties and a frustrating rollout last year, the Affordable Care Act is beginning its second year of enrollment in November. Like they say in commercials “act now” if you want to figure out the best plan for you, your church staff, and your church family. Especially, if your church family is one that involves everyone (committees) in the decision-making process.
Here are dates to remember or add to your calendar:
- November 15 is when open enrollment begins.
- December 15 is the last day to enroll for coverage that starts on January 1, 2015.
- December 31 is when all 2014 Marketplace coverage ends.
- February 15, 2015 is the last day to enroll for individual Marketplace coverage for 2015.
Now for the disclaimers – all dates are subject to change. Medicaid, CHIP (Children’s Healthcare) and SHOP (Small Business Heathcare) enrollments have no enrollment period and you can apply anytime. There are also exceptions to the individual enrollment period if you qualify for the special enrollment period exemption.
The temptation for auto-enrollment is big because it seems so convenient, especially with our busy church lives, but I don’t recommend it. It’s a new year and there are plenty of changes this year, as with every year. Plans change, rates charged for “similar” plans from the year before and sometimes benefits change without much publicity. There are certain companies and plans that rely on consumers not paying close enough attention to details to maximize their profits.
Especially if your medical needs change. For example a new baby in your family, or a new diagnosis that requires additional prescriptions might drive costs up from year-to-year. You should be active in educating yourself each year so that you are picking the plan that best meets your needs.
Possibly the most important consideration: tax subsidies for healthcare are based upon your expected income for 2015, not 2014. If you auto-enroll, the system will assume your income has not changed. If it increases, you may owe taxes at the end of the year because of received subsidies.
ACA changes in 2015
Change is inevitable. Rates and plan details will change from last year. But we are also hearing that rates are decreasing and plan benefits are improving in some areas of the country. (BTW, if you auto-enroll, you might miss a good deal!) As always, it will depend largely on where you live.
SHOP or Small business Health Options Program should be accessible on the healthcare.gov site. However, the application process is still based on snail mail, so if you believe SHOP could be an option for your church, I encourage you to call us at Church Benefits Board at 1-800-352-8741 and let’s discuss it.
This is the first of several blogs we have planned on ACA open enrollment, like last year. But I can’t stress to start the process of educating yourself as soon as possible. Like today! Or this Sunday, begin discussing it with potential decision-making partners at your church.
As always, your benefits are our ministry at CBB. We are working in the next few weeks to provide users everywhere – regardless of church affiliation – a new option: the CBB exchange. Watch for more details.
If we can ever be of assistance with this process, please don’t hesitate calling or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and visit our web page http://www.churchbenefits.org for updates and more information.
Gary Skeen is President of the Church Benefits Board, a ministry of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.