Note from Mike: Yeah, I know there was an election this week. We are waiting for the final results and I’ll be back soon with my take. In the meantime, remember that, no matter the outcome, health insurance for 2021 is not changing. Read the post below for more on your options next year.
You ever wake up and feel like you’ve got a bullseye on your back? Like there’s so much going against you that the most prudent course of action would be just to get back under the bed covers. Like, life’s going to just gang up on me again today so why bother?
I suspect we all feel like that a bit right now here in Louisiana. I mean, I’m not one to keep score, but FIVE named storms hitting us in a single year, plus COVID-19, plus depressed oil prices, plus running out of money in our state’s unemployment funds, plus… plus… plus!
In the midst of all this, news articles appeared last month analyzing some data from 2019 that showed that the uninsured in Louisiana, that is, people with no health insurance for a measurable period of time, increased by 1%. Now THIS made me mad. With our current health insurance safety net being so robust, we can DO something about that.
Open Enrollment Is Happening Now
You see, right now is OPEN ENROLLMENT for people who need health insurance coverage from Medicaid, private coverage through healthcare.gov (which opened Nov. 1 and goes through Dec. 15), and seniors needing to adjust or get health insurance through Medicare Advantage plans (through Dec. 7). This is a critical and important time of the year. I believe there are MANY people in Louisiana right now who have access to free, or near-free health coverage but don’t know how to get it. These are great places to start.
If you are under 65, you can start your coverage journey today at www.healthcare.gov. If you are 65 or older, you can start your journey by calling this number 1-800-568-1417 (TTY 711) or by visiting this website – bcbslaplan.com/medicare.
It turns out that, thanks to the hard work of the governor, and Louisiana Department of Health, the generosity of the taxpayers and the Affordable Care Act (yes, the ACA!), among others, Louisiana has the best health insurance safety net in the nation, with the possible exception of California. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by.
“But Mike, what’s the deal with all these health insurance options?
Ah, a quality question! Let’s talk about the entire safety net first, and then I’ll explain that “dire” data from 2019.
First, to help understand how all this works, let’s revisit a few facts. If you imagine that we’ve lined up every household in Louisiana, from the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich, in order of their household incomes, we find something VERY interesting about Louisiana.
We are a very poor state in terms of average household income (45th in 2018 at $47,905 per household per year). Poorer folks are more likely to fall through the cracks of the health insurance system. This means aligning health insurance coverage with income is even more important than it would be in a wealthier state like Maryland, where the average household income is OVER $80,000 per year!
In Louisiana, any household with an income below 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (that’s $23,791 for a family of two or $36,156 for a family of four in 2020) is eligible for Medicaid, essentially health insurance with no premiums, deductibles or coinsurance. This is big. Very big!
In fact, this opportunity now makes the state’s Medicaid program the easiest to access and the biggest healthcare payer in the entire state. That’s GOOD NEWS if you are looking for coverage right now. Let’s check out some other relative facts:
Fact #1: About 90% of the people in Louisiana who have private health insurance have it because they have a job or are related to someone who has a job. So, of the roughly 1.9 million state residents with private coverage, the majority of them have it through work.
For people who don’t get an offer of health insurance at work, or those who find those offers unaffordable, we often find they migrate to other options. The key is, if you’ve lost a job and your job-based insurance this year, DON’T PANIC! You have other options.
Fact #2: About 55% of the state’s population is covered by health insurance provided by a government entity. This makes Louisiana unique in another way – we are the ONLY state with the majority of our residents having their healthcare paid for by the government. The next-closest states I can find (Arkansas and West Virginia) are only at about 42%. This directly affects how medical providers and facilities get paid (poorly) and drives up the cost of private insurance, BUT it means more of our residents are covered.
Fact #3: We have only achieved getting 92+% of our residents covered by taking steps to address health insurance coverage for the working poor. In fact, it is likely that there are still hundreds of thousands of folks out there who are eligible for Medicaid but have not signed up. Especially when you consider that, when estimating your income, you do NOT have to include the extra $600/week unemployment compensation many have received in 2020, nor the $1,200 per household direct stimulus payments from the IRS. Neither count toward the income of 138% of the Federal Poverty Level eligibility for Medicaid.
In fact, if you are not getting an affordable offer of coverage from an employer and are younger than 65, where you should turn next is pretty straightforward: www.healthcare.gov is open for business. After you give them a few basics about your income and household, healthcare.gov will steer you to either Medicaid or private health insurance, potentially with some very heavy federal financial assistance. In fact, depending on your income, you may find $0 premium policies there, even if you make too much money for Medicaid. It’s all based on your projected income for 2021.
In this time of heightened risk of medical problems, when COVID-19 is still infecting hundreds of people per day, and people are missing doctor appointments and skipping medications because they are afraid to seek care or because they have lost their insurance through work, accessing this Louisiana safety net is even more important.
Don’t wait. The time is NOW. Straight Talk is, you’ve got plenty of options!
If you are turning 65 or are already over 65: Call 1-800-568-1417 (TTY 711) or go to www.bcbslaplan.com/medicare.
If you are under 65 and need coverage: Go to www.healthcare.gov, or for a personal agent experience at no charge, call 1-800-821-2758.
Don’t become an uninsured statistic when there are so many opportunities to get covered.