I read in the Columbian newspaper last week that open enrollment, and the opportunity to change your health insurance coverage if you want to, has started on the state-based insurance exchange.
Some people are fortunate enough to have health insurance provided through their employment as a benefit of their job. Our law office, for example, does that for its employees, as do many companies in today's workplace. Some of you, however, may not be so fortunate. If that is the case, you have to weigh the pros and cons and make a decision about whether or not you should do something about being uninsured. The first step in that process would be to learn something about the plans available, and their cost.
According to one of the Columbian article cited above, Clark County Public Health and its local partners are offering events to help residents learn about the exchange (which can be found online at www.wa-healthplanfinder.org). There will be persons providing one-on-one help at each of these upcoming events (they won't be able to make specific plan recommendations, but will be there to help attendees navigate the exchange). Given how complicated perusing all matters health insurance can be, it is nice that they are offering personal assistance at these informational meetings. Several of these events will even have a Spanish language interpreter available (but apparently not the sessions being to be held in Battle Ground).
Here is the event schedule:
SeaMar Community Health Center, 7410 E. Delaware Ln., Vancouver, 360-896-5128. Spanish language interpreter interpreter available.
8 AM to 5 PM November 22, 2014.
Vancouver Community Library, 1901 C St., Vancouver, 360-906-5106. Spanish language interpreter available.
3 AM to 6 PM Thursday, November 20, 2014
3 AM to 6 PM January 15, 2015
Battle Ground Community Library, 1207 S.E. Eighth Way, 360-687-2322.
3 AM to 6 PM December 4, 2014.
3 AM to 6 PM January 8, 2015.
3 AM to 6 PM February 5, 2015.
Cascade Park Community Library, 600 N.E. 136th Ave., Vancouver, WA 360-256–7782. Spanish interpreter available.
3 AM to 6 PM December 11, 2014.
9 AM to noon and 3 PM to 6 PM December 18, 2014.
3 AM to 6 PM ]\January 22, 2015.
Also, in case you can't attend any of the above, the Clark County Public Health website, provides a list of local agencies with in-person assistants.
NOTE: “Open enrollment” ends February 15, 2015, and then, it will take special circumstances (that don't apply to most people) to qualify for enrollment in a health plan. So if your desire is to obtain coverage, this is not something to put off. If you miss this window, from November 15 to February 15, you won't be able to enroll again until next fall.
So what might be the reasons to go to the trouble of researching coverage, and paying for it, instead of staying uninsured?
One would be to avoid the fines that can occur now for persons who are uninsured. In 2015, those who are uninsured will pay a penalty of either 2% of their income or $325 per adult, whichever is greater.
Let's assume, though, that the fine for being uninsured is not sufficient incentive to cause one to decide they should learn about how to get signed up for and spend the money it will cost on a health insurance plan. Think about this: A typical in and out emergency room visit (such as to be seen after a car accident, dog bite, or work injury) rarely costs less than $1,500, and can run up to $10,000 or $15,000 if you end up having to stay overnight or receiving any costly diagnostic tests. Ambulance bills range from $650 to $1,200 for even just a short ride of several miles from the place of injury to the hospital. Surgeries to repair a complex fracture, a herniated disc, etc., typically range between $12,000-$60,000. As we see daily in our business, unfortunate things occur to innocent, law abiding people everyday that force them to have to seek emergency medical help that they really never planned on needing or even suspected might be necessary. While we can't completely prevent becoming the victim of an injury caused by the fault of another, at least we can attempt to have coverages in place to help limit the financial setback that such an event would otherwise cause.
We have written before in our law office blogs about the importance of carrying personal injury protection coverage as part of your auto insurance. And uninsured motorist coverage. Another important protection against financial ruin resulting from someone else's bad driving or careless conduct is to, if you can possibly afford to do so, have a good health insurance policy in place.