The open enrollment period for 2021 begins Nov. 1, and because of the pandemic, many Americans are depending on coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for the first time ever.
Those who have lost their income or had it cut significantly may qualify for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid.
About 5.4 million Americans lost their health insurance with their jobs between February and May of this year, including more than 170,000 people living in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
At a time when our health means more than ever, choosing a solid health plan is crucial. Experts say the last thing you want to do is to let your coverage lapse. But navigating your way through those options can be overwhelming, whether you’re choosing coverage through the ACA or an employer-sponsored program.
4 Things to Know When Choosing a Health Plan
Know your enrollment period so you don’t miss your chance to sign up or make changes to your coverage. Check with your employer if you have coverage through your job. Here are the enrollment periods for the ACA if you live in the D.C. region:
- Maryland: Nov. 1 - Dec. 15
- Virginia: Nov. 1 - Dec. 15
- Washington, D.C.: Nov. 1 - Jan. 31, 2021
- West Virginia: Nov. 1 - Dec. 15
Look beyond the monthly premium. Be wary of short-term, limited-duration insurance plans that don’t cover pre-existing conditions or preventative services.
“They look good on paper. They might be cheap, the premiums might be low but when it comes down to actually getting care covered you’re often saddled with big bills,” said Jason Resendez with Consumers for Quality Care
Watch out for copay adjustment programs. “These are programs that limit the ability of consumers to apply drug coupons and manufacturer coupons to cover deductibles and lower out of pocket costs at the counter,” said Resendez.
Once you do have a plan and use it, be sure to review your bills closely. Make sure you aren’t being double charged for anything and be aware of surprise medical bills.