Critter Corner: Tips for Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment

Dear Magic,

I will be shopping for 2018 health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchange. I can tell it’s going to be complicated this season, since it was shortened to just 45 days. Do you have any tips for this year’s open enrollment?


Paul Lissy-Shopin


Dear Paul,

Open Enrollment begins on Wednesday, Nov. 1 and ends Wednesday, Dec. 15, which is a tight time! Eight states and Washington, D.C., however, have extended Open Enrollment beyond Dec. 15. Unfortunately, Virginia and Maryland are not among those states.

Not only will the time frame to enroll be cut in half, but government assistance to help people purchase plans wisely will also be reduced. The site will be shut down every Sunday from midnight to noon for maintenance during Open Enrollment. And, some health insurers will send out renewal notices later than normal, because they’ve been waiting for clarity from the Trump administration about the rules for 2018.
With these and other changes, what are some tips for Affordable Care shoppers like yourself?

  1. Start shopping early. Since there is a shorter window this year and reduced help, the sooner you begin looking, the better.
  2. Use to find an insurance agent or broker. You can also phone the Marketplace Call Center toll-free 24-hour hotline for general information (800-318-2596).
  3. If you bought a policy through the ACA last year, you may not want to simply let your health insurer automatically renew it. The plan’s coverage, doctor network, deductibles and premiums may have changed. So, you may want to compare your plan to what else is being sold where you live.
  4. Look beyond premiums when comparing policies. You’ll want to look closely at the deductibles and co-payments, so you’ll know how much you’ll owe out-of-pocket. And you’ll want to see which medical services are covered (and which aren’t) as well as which doctors you can see.
  5. Decide whether to go for a Platinum, Gold, Silver, or Bronze plan, based on whether you qualify for a premium tax credit. A Gold or Platinum plan could be your best bet if you see doctors frequently or have a chronic illness, because of its lower deductible.
  6. Make sure you have some health insurance for 2018. Otherwise, you’ll owe a penalty. In 2017, that was $695 or up to $2,085 a family. The Internal Revenue Service has reaffirmed its plans to levy these penalties; the amounts will rise with inflation for 2018.

Hop this was helpful!


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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.