A (very) last minute guide to buying health insurance in Colorado

If you’re shopping for health insurance on your own or if you own a small business and are trying to choose a health plan for your employees you’re running out of time to get coverage for next year.

The deadline to choose a plan that starts Jan. 1 is Friday Dec. 15. (Open enrollment continues through Jan. 15, but plans purchased after Friday won’t start until February.) If you’re stuck with insurance doubts, don’t worry, because we at The Sun have you covered.

Last week, we hosted a panel discussion with three health insurance experts to help you choose the plan that’s best for you.

You can watch the whole thing here:

But, if you’re just looking for highlights, here are some takeaways.

You better go shopping

It can be very tempting to buy the first plan that comes up in your search results. But that might not be the best choice.

If you have a doctor you care about, you want to make sure they’re in the network of the plan you choose, says Michael Conway, Colorados insurance commissioner. You also want to make sure that if you have any prescriptions, that those prescriptions are covered by the plan you choose as well.

The bottom line, folks, is to shop, Conway added. There is a ton of help available to you both from the federal government and the state of Colorado to help you pay your health insurance premiums. And by shopping around, you may be able to find a cheaper plan within the same metal level you were at this year.

Claim what you are owed

Speaking of financial aid, it’s always a good idea to check that you’re getting all you can afford. Colorado has new state-funded subsidies that will help lower-income individuals and families pay out-of-pocket costs. And, if you haven’t checked in a few years, you may find you’re eligible for expanded federal subsidies that first began during the pandemic.

It doesn’t hurt to check, says Kevin Patterson, the CEO of Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s insurance exchange. That’s the most solid data point I’ve ever seen. Everyone was like, Oh, I do too much for that. And I say, Is it you?

If they’re just renewing the same plan for a few years, they may actually be eligible for subsidies that they’re just leaving on the table, Conway said.

The only place you can apply for subsidies is through the Connect for Health Colorado website. Use the Quick Cost & Plan Finder to see if you qualify for help and also see what plans are available in your area.

See the full amount of coverage

Most people who buy health insurance do so based on choosing the lowest premium price. This is not the best way of doing things.

The reason is because lower priced plans are more expensive when you actually need to use them they have higher deductibles.

It’s like saying you own a car but you only make monthly payments that you don’t have to change the oil or put new tires on it or put gas in it, Patterson said. There are other costs that come with the total cost of ownership. And I think you really have to think about health insurance in a similar way.

So try to think about not only your monthly budget when buying insurance but also how likely you are to use it and how much you can afford to pay out-of-pocket at any given time. That will help you make a smarter decision that could save you money in the long run.

Be honest about your needs

OK, how do you estimate what your health care needs are, especially if you don’t have ongoing health conditions or planned procedures? You have to think like an actuary and come up with an honest forecast for the unexpected.

I look at the composition of the family if they have little ones, I’ll just say right now, they’re accident prone, said Meagan Fearing, a health insurance broker and a former president of broker group NABIP Colorado. On top of that, I’m also asking how many times have you been sick this year? How many times have you left work? Do you have anything that is bothering you a bit?

Look at previous years’ health spending and use its average as a baseline. Then start doing the math: Does 12 months of lower premiums make sense if it means you’re paying most of your annual medical bills out of pocket before you hit your deductible? Or could you save money by paying more per month in premiums if it means you reach your deductible sooner?

Know when you need help

Even in these late hours, health insurance brokers and Connect for Health are available to help you navigate the system and make the best choice. Even better, they work at no cost to you and brokers can also be helpful after you select your coverage to help ensure you get the most out of your plan.

Connect for Health has a broker search tool, as well as a scheduling tool for getting help at a certified help center.

A broker can really help you navigate the process smoothly, Fearing says.

Story Type: Expository

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