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Health coverage for $2 a month: Changes in financial help add up to big savings for many Marylanders

With open enrollment upon us, Marylanders only have until December 15 to enroll in 2018 health plans or change their current plan. We want to make sure you’ve heard about changes in plan costs and financial help that make it especially urgent for current plan enrollees to come back to shop:

You may see a significant increase in savings and pay less if you choose another plan, depending on your income.

Let’s take a look at the numbers. For example, a family of four with total income of $53,000 (ages 60, 55, 24 and 19) enrolled in a CareFirst plan in 2017 would have paid $243/month for the lowest-cost Silver plan, thanks to a tax credit of $1349/month drastically lowering their costs.

For 2018, that family’s tax credit increased to more than $3900/month. Now they would pay $13.85/month for the Silver plan — or only $11.40/month for even better coverage in a Gold plan. That’s 38 cents a day for their entire family’s health coverage.

Another example: A 21-year-old earning $25,000 who was enrolled in a CareFirst plan in 2017 would have paid $142/month, thanks to a tax credit of about $100. For 2018, the tax credit jumped to $478/month. That young person would now pay just $2/month for a Silver plan in 2018, or only $1.66/month for a better Gold plan.

Why are many families seeing better deals this year?

Here’s a brief background on why some plan costs changed and why tax credits for many families are increasing this year: Before now, Silver-level plans sold through us received funding from the federal government to keep costs down for lower income enrollees for out-of-pocket expenses such as deductibles and copays.

However, in October, the government stopped making these “cost-sharing reduction” payments to the insurance companies, so the Maryland Insurance Administration approved an increase in premiums for these Silver plans (an average of 24% for CareFirst plans and average of 17% for Kaiser). The cost remains unchanged for other plan levels offered through the marketplace. In addition, financial help in the form of premium tax credits increased to offset the financial burden for lower-income enrollees.

Household size and income plays a large role in how much rates and financial help are changing for 2018. Enrollees whose income is up to 250% of the federal poverty level ($30,150 for an individual or $61,500 for a family of four in 2017) will see the best rates and plan benefits by shopping through Maryland Health Connection (the only place to access financial help with health insurance costs).

Marylanders with slightly higher incomes (up to 400% FPL, which is $48,240 for an individual or $98,400 for a family of four in 2017) should carefully compare the costs and benefits across Silver and Gold plans, as in some cases the rates for the Silver plans will be higher than the Gold. Marylanders with higher incomes who do not qualify for financial help may consider enrolling directly with the insurance company (called “off-exchange”), where they will find better rates for Silver plans.

If there were ever a year to get expert help choosing a plan, this might be it.

We have trained experts throughout Maryland who can help you update your application for 2018 and choose the best plan for you and your family.

Visit MarylandHealthConnection.gov/help or download our mobile app to search for free, local help from a consumer assistance organization or an authorized insurance broker.

About Maryland Health Connection

Maryland Health Connection is Maryland’s official health insurance marketplace for individuals and families to compare plans and enroll in health and dental coverage. It’s the only place to get financial help with health insurance. See if you qualify for financial help like tax credits or Medicaid/MCHP to make health insurance more affordable.

Visit MarylandHealthConnection.gov to enroll, or download our free Enroll MHC mobile app for Android and iPhone.

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