By Colton Lawrence
The Trucker CFO
Health insurance is a major expense, and the cost of healthcare is one of those price variables that can impact your expense budget both in your business and at home. Having health insurance coverage is a key component in the effort to mitigate these costs – especially when it comes to dealing with an injury or illnesses that require hospitalization or extended care. It’s also true that health insurance can help when it comes to controlling the cost of doctor’s visits and prescription medications.
At Trucker CFO, we are dedicated to sharing valuable information and expert perspectives that can assist you in managing your business in the most profitable manner possible. Through our blogs and podcasts, we are working to provide insight into topics that can impact your bottom line and your quality of life. This month, we are placing our focus on health insurance because the open enrollment period for benefits under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) began on November 1. Open enrollment will run through January 15 of next year.
What is the Affordable Care Act (ACA)?
The ACA, also known as “ObamaCare,” has become one of the major avenues to obtain health insurance coverage through its marketplace, and the annual enrollment period is a time when the window is open to explore your options. To help those who don’t currently have health insurance or those who need to re-examine their coverage plans, we asked Marc Ballard to join us for this blog and episode of the Trucker CFO Podcast.
Marc has a wealth of experience in the insurance field, having served as an agent for the past 33 years and run his own agency since 1996. Marc also understands the trucking industry; he is the Program Manager for Truckers Healthcare, and he has worked with the National Association of Independent Truckers (NAIT) for the past decade on healthcare insurance and open enrollment with the ACA.
What is the Annual Enrollment Period?
We talked with Marc about the importance of the annual enrollment period. Marc pointed out to us that open enrollment affects people from across the country and all industries. This is the time for everybody to plug in and get their plan shopped if they have one or if they don’t have one. This is the time of year to check out and see if there’s a suitable plan out there for you and your family.
Through Truckers Healthcare and NAIT, Marc and his team will be enrolling members initially through December 15 for a January 1, 2023, effective date for health insurance benefits. Additionally, there are another 30 days built into the annual enrollment period, which is December 16th through January 15th. Enrollees during that time frame will have February 1, 2023 as their effective date for health insurance coverage.
The annual open enrollment has a limited window. If you don’t act during the open enrollment period, you essentially have to wait until next year unless there happens to be a change in your personal circumstances that qualifies as a life event.
What is a Qualifying Life Event?
A common example of a trucking life event circumstance that would give you a 60-day window to enroll or change your benefits would be those company drivers who become independent contractors or owner-operators at any point in a given year. In that circumstance, you have left your company, and you no longer have company-provided health insurance. This would be a qualifying event that would allow you to enroll in an ACA-based plan.
There are a number of other qualifying events. As with any aspect of your business, especially those that impact cost, you want to have plans in place and connected to good resources that can provide the information you need to allow you to make the best decision for your business.
How do you choose a healthcare plan?
Anytime you are considering any type of insurance, there’s always a question of how much coverage you actually need. That’s no different when it comes to health insurance. Some of you are younger and may only see a doctor for your annual D.O.T. physical exam. Some of you may be older, and you have some health issues, including those that are managed with prescription medications.
The coverage plans are categorized by levels with bronze, gold, silver, and platinum. Bronze plans have the lowest cost, with platinum plans having the highest annual cost. Marc shared with us that he and his team talk to a wide spectrum of drivers – from those who are in good health to others who require more medical care. Marc has a series of questions that he asks, including:
- How often do you see your doctor?
- What kind of medications are you taking?
- Do you have a planned procedure coming up?
From those questions, Marc and his team can determine whether or not you are likely to be a more frequent user of an insurance plan. If you or your family members require a higher level of medical care throughout the year, you need to be looking for a plan that has a lower out-of-pocket cost. As Marc shared, the bronze plans, for example, have deductibles in excess of $8,000. So, if you know that you have issues that require consistent care or have a need for a medical procedure, a lower-level bronze plan with higher out-of-pocket costs would likely not make economic sense. At the same time, we discussed during the podcast that it’s equally important not to overspend and pay for a platinum level when you don’t need it.
For those of you who already have doctors who are treating you or your family members, be sure to check if the plan you’re considering covers your preferred providers. Do you have a doctor that you want to keep seeing? This is particularly true for parents who may have a pediatrician for their children. Be sure to take into account any medical procedures that might be on the horizon for the future.
The challenge is to see if you can find the level of plan that fits your needs – giving you and your family enough coverage while not overpaying for that coverage. No one ever plans to become ill or get injured, and while you may be one of the lucky few who can go years without needing medical care, your financial health and the health of your business can suffer a serious blow if you do not obtain some level of health insurance coverage.
Health Insurance & Financial Planning
Did you know that a simple doctor’s visit can run between $300 to $600 without health insurance coverage? Of course, for those who do not have health insurance, a trip to the emergency room or a hospital stay can become a financial nightmare that, at best, could require years to pay off. At worst, unexpected and uncovered health expenses can ruin you and your business. This is especially true in an industry where your earnings are dependent on making the wheels turn.
No one likes surprises in their business or home budget. We live in a time of rising healthcare costs, and even a trip to the pharmacy can run an average of $13 to $98 for the most commonly prescribed drugs. At Trucker CFO, we are firm believers that you can best manage your budget with a plan. If it has a cost, you should have a plan.
While there are different levels and many nuances to health insurance, securing the coverage that best fits the needs of you and your family is a strategy that will help you control costs and take a large element of uncertainty and surprise out of your budget. The annual open enrollment period is an important opportunity.
As we have noted here, we consider healthcare insurance to be an important tool for controlling costs. Having health insurance coverage in hand can eliminate one of those “what ifs” when it comes to your business and your personal budget. By taking advantage of the enrollment period and finding the plan that best fits you and your family, you won’t have the additional burden of worrying about how to deal financially with an illness or injury event without coverage.
Secure Your Health Insurance Coverage
Take advantage of the annual enrollment period while the sign-up window is still open. Listen to our full podcast for more information and to hear more from Marc Ballard and his team at Trucker’s Healthcare. Marc, especially given the relationship that he has built with the National Association of Independent Truckers, understands the challenges that trucking professionals face on a daily basis. In talking with Marc, we know that he and his team take the time to get to know you and to ask the right questions.
- Do you currently have a health insurance plan?
- Have you reviewed your plan and how it compares with the coverage and cost options that are available in the market today?
- Are you going to consider taking advantage of the current annual open enrollment period?
- Most importantly, do you want to reduce your risk of financial exposure when it comes to healthcare costs?
- More directly, do you want to examine an opportunity to save money on an annual basis while eliminating some of the stress and uncertainty you deal with as a trucking professional?
If you would like to explore and find answers to these questions, the time is now. Don’t let the window for securing healthcare insurance for 2023 close on you and your family.