Viewpoint: This year, holiday shopping should include health insurance.
Who doesn’t love a deal? Especially at this time of year, many of us like to find the best price on groceries and holiday gifts. And we all have a friend who found a great bargain on Black Friday.
But this year, the deals don’t stop there. Health insurance coverage on the Marketplace is more affordable than ever. With changes in federal laws, the average cost of a health care plan in Montana is only $142 a month. However, a third of Montanans can get coverage for less than $10 per month, and more than 86% qualify for a tax credit to make their monthly premiums more affordable.
Think of what you spend $10 on. For the cost of lunch one day a month, you can get the peace of mind that comes with knowing you are covered. Even if you have applied in the past and found the coverage unaffordable, apply again because you might be surprised by what you qualify for.
But it gets even better. The coverage isn’t just affordable. Plans on the Marketplace cover doctor’s visits, prescription drugs, emergencies, and hospitalization. And many have no-cost preventive visits like immunization and annual well-woman visits. So even if you are one of the nearly 50,000 Montanans who already have their health insurance from the Montana Marketplace, now is the time to shop around and see if there is a better plan for you.
With one application, you can find out if you are eligible for Montana Medicaid, Healthy Montana Kids, or a Health Insurance Marketplace plan. Also, if you qualify for Medicaid and apply through the Marketplace, your application will automatically be sent to Montana Medicaid. In Missoula County, 28,270 residents, which is 24%, have Medicaid, Medicaid expansion, or Healthy Montana Kids as their health insurance.
Many Montanans have questions about applying for and enrolling in health insurance, but the good news is that help is available. Certified Application Counselors and Navigators with Cover Montana are ready to help answer questions and walk you through the application process. Our service is always free and confidential, and events are happening all over the state to help people enroll. You can find a complete list of enrollment assisters at CoverMT.org. Montana Navigators can also do phone enrollment assistance with the same free, confidential help. The number is 1-877-568-6284 or (406) 430-0005.
But just like a sale, it won’t last for long. To have coverage for 2022, you must enroll by December 15. However, you have until January 15 to get health insurance that kicks in on February 1. After January 15, most folks will have to wait until the next open enrollment period.
Holiday shopping should be more than looking for gifts for others. Give yourself the gift of peace of mind. Take the time to do a little shopping to find affordable health coverage for you and your family. It’s a gift that lasts all year. You can learn more, see what you qualify for, and find local assistance at www.CoverMT.org.
Olivia Riutta is the Director of Population Health at the Montana Primary Care Association (MPCA) and leads Cover Montana. Cover Montana is a program of MPCA that is working to connecting Montanans with information and enrollment assistance to find a health insurance plan that works for their monthly budget and healthcare needs.