Family Checkbook: Test your health insurance knowledge

Family Checkbook: Test your health insurance knowledge

By KATHY SWEEDLER

Just how well do you understand health insurance policies? It's a challenging topic!

The Kaiser Family Foundation surveyed people about health insurance terms and concepts; only 4 percent answered all 10 questions correctly. However, that quiz is from 2014.

With the Affordable Care Act enrollment period now open, this seems like a good time for a new quiz. Let's see how you do with this five-statement, true-false quiz.

People can enroll for health insurance at any time during the year.

False. In general, people need to sign up for health insurance (either at work or through the marketplace) only on certain dates. The marketplace enrollment is now through Dec. 15. This is a significantly shorter period than last year. The plan is for the website to be down for maintenance for 12 hours during all but one Sunday. Plan accordingly.

However, there is a special enrollment period for some exceptions such as losing health insurance, having a baby and a change in income. If you qualify for Medicaid, you can enroll at any time during the year. For more information about these exceptions, go to healthcare.gov.

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7; go to medicare.gov for more information.

The law does not require me to have health insurance.

False. The law still requires everyone in the U.S. to have health insurance. If you don't, you are likely to be fined. Go to healthcare.gov to enroll in a health insurance policy through the marketplace.

At the marketplace website, people in East Central Illinois have several choices of policies.

True. While signing up for health insurance may take a short time, start now so there's time to compare the different policies. Shoppers may also want to compare these policies to ones offered by their employer as well as those available directly from insurers.

When comparing different health insurance policies, there are different costs to keep in mind. Monthly premiums (the amount you pay each month for the insurance) is the first cost people typically consider.

However, be sure to pay attention to the deductible level — the amount you pay before your insurance begins paying for covered services. While higher deductibles typically lead to a lower monthly premium, it also requires that you can afford to pay the deductible if needed.

Also, consider the maximum out-of-pocket cost of the plan. This is the most anyone has to pay for covered services in a plan year — not counting the premium costs. After this amount is spent, the plan pays 100 percent of covered benefits.

Last, but not least, look at which services are covered by the policy.

People's costs for health insurance policies have increased by double digits every year since 2014.

False. According to research done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, average annual increases in premiums for health insurance provided by an employer continue to hover slightly higher than inflation (1 to 2 percent higher) since 2014.

In addition, this year, East Central Illinois residents who are eligible for premium subsidies through the marketplace are likely to find their premiums are less for 2018. Yes, based on a household's income and size, subsidies are provided by the federal government to help pay for premiums.

People can receive in-person help to sign up for marketplace insurance.

True. Several local organizations have trained and certified people available to help you through the process of enrolling for health insurance, such as Champaign County Health Care Consumers, East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center and Aunt Martha's Vermilion Area Community Health Center. For more options and contact information, go to localhelp.healthcare.gov/#/.

How did you do on the quiz questions above? Are you looking for a further challenge? Try the Health Insurance Quiz by Kaiser Family Foundation at kff.org/quiz/health-insurance-quiz.

Kathy Sweedler is a consumer economics educator at the University of Illinois Extension. Contact her at 217-333-7672 or email sweedler@illinois.edu.