How to Find an Affordable Health Plan on the Health Insurance Marketplace

Although it has been around for several years, there is still a lot of confusion regarding how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has changed the health insurance marketplace. A common question is whether or not Ohio residents are legally required to get health insurance. Currently, Ohio residents are still required to have some sort of health insurance plan. The plan can be from a private insurance provider, through an employer or from a government plan, such as Medicare or Medicaid. Anyone who does not have insurance will be forced to pay a fine. Although Congress has repealed the individual mandate, which required almost all residents to have health insurance, that repeal will not take effect until 2019.

The best place to find a health insurance plan in Ohio is to go through the health care exchange. States were given the option of using their own separate health insurance exchanges, which contains all of the various programs offered in that state, or to use the federally maintained Health Insurance Marketplace. Ohio uses its own exchange, known as the Ohio Health Insurance Exchange.

Using the Ohio Health Care Exchange

The Ohio health care exchange is an online marketplace. Insurance shoppers can browse through several different health insurance plans available in the state. The market offers an initial general overview of the plans, but any interested applicant can select a program to receive a more detailed overview, including how to officially enroll for that specific plan.

Not all applicants are comfortable using a digital marketplace, which is why the state of Ohio has trained application counselors, also known as navigators, to help. Navigators are only allowed to walk applicants through the application process and help explain to them what all the different plans provide. They also help explain the plans’ eligibility requirements. Navigators are not allowed to recommend specific plans. In addition to state-provided navigators, private insurance companies typically have their own agents available. These agents are allowed to recommend plans and will most likely recommend plans from the companies they represent.

Navigators are available for in-person meetings, but applicants can also call them over the phone to receive advice or ask questions. The support lines are open every day for 24 hours. Private insurance agents vary depending on the agency, but typically they have more limited hours. Consultation appointments are always free.

Applying for Insurance Plans Through the Ohio Health Care Exchange

In order to apply for insurance plans through the Ohio health exchange, applicants are required to submit some basic information to confirm their identity and finances. Applicants should have a few different documents on hand for their application. This includes paperwork relating to their yearly income, such as payment stubs and their tax returns. Applicants also need information to confirm their identity, such as their Social Security numbers. Those who are not U.S. citizens will need to provide other identifying information.

In addition to finding out whether an applicant is eligible for a health insurance plan, he or she will also be notified if there are any discounts available through the plan. The most common type of discount is known as a premium tax credit. These tax credits are primarily available depending on the applicant’s income. In addition to premium tax credits, there are also cost-sharing reductions. These reductions provide a discount for any immediate costs associated with the insurance plan, such as monthly premiums or copayments.

Deadlines on the Ohio Health Care Exchange

One of the most important aspects of shopping for insurance plans on the Ohio exchange is paying attention to the application deadlines. Consumers who are already enrolled in a plan will receive an eligibility notice to resolve any health insurance issues. This notice will have options available for continuing the plan. In some cases, the notice may inform the beneficiary that the plan is no longer available. This typically happens when a private insurance provider pulls out of the marketplace. After receiving the notice, applicants have 90 days to respond.

These applicants are able to apply for insurance plans after 90 days, but applying late comes with a few downsides. One of the main drawbacks of applying late is that these applicants may not be eligible for premium tax credits or may receive significantly reduced discounts. If there is an extenuating circumstance, the applicant may be eligible for a special enrollment period that will negate any of the normal penalties for applying late, but this varies on a case-by-case basis.

Updating Information on the Ohio Health Care Exchange

In addition to paying attention to the deadlines, it is very important that applicants keep their account information up to date, most notably when making changes to their total income. In order to receive health insurance discounts, the exchange must contain the most up to date information. Applicants may find themselves paying more if they have not correctly reported their changes. In some cases, they may owe back money if they are reporting a lower income than they actually receive.