ACA Open Enrollment: Consumers Advised to Do Their Homework

(Christian Delbert/Adobe Stock)

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The open-enrollment period for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is under way, and health care advocates are advising people to read the fine print before deciding on a new policy.

Consumers for Quality Care sponsored a survey that found just over half of respondents said they understand "very well" their health-insurance coverage for routine doctor visits. But according to board member Jason Resendez, only 22% said they understand what is covered for out-of-network hospital services or in the event of an accident.

"It's really important for consumers to understand what exactly their plan covers, and really thinking about how to avoid things like surprise medical bills," Resendez said.

Resendez said he advises folks to watch out for "short-term, limited-duration" insurance plans. He said these low-cost plans are exempt from many of the coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act and may leave people with huge medical bills.

"These are plans that often exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions; they're not required to cover preventive services, and have a host of other substantial risks for consumers," he said. "So, these are really 'junk plans.'"

Even for people with experience in this field, health-insurance plans can be hard to understand and are often confusing. Resendez said the best thing to do when shopping for a new plan is to be your own consumer advocate.

"Get as much information as you can when you're making these decisions," he said; "not being afraid to call your insurer and ask questions, and then making the best decision for you and your family."

The open-enrollment period for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act ends December 15.
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