If you're planning to shop this fall for a private medical insurance policy to cover yourself or your family next year, take care. Don't give out your Social Security number or any personal account numbers, especially if you're not sure you're dealing with a secure source. And that goes for whether you shop on — or off — Oklahoma's new federally-run online health insurance marketplace, for which enrollment opens Oct. 1.
About a month ago, Larry Gundlach of Oklahoma Business Insurors surfed for private insurance on the online search engine Google.com. He purposefully clicked on a Blue Cross and Blue Shield link that he knew wasn't the carrier's home website. He supplied his name, email and phone, and, within a few hours, had a call from one of the many insurance agents who sells Blue Cross and Blue Shield coverage.
When Gundlach explained that he only was doing research, he was told that he'd be put on a Do Not Call List, but he got calls for weeks afterward and still is getting emails. The most recent read: “Good news: you're approved,” which is misleading in itself because come Jan. 1, everyone is approved.
Under new health reform laws, insurers — starting in 2014 — can't deny people medical coverage based on any illnesses or health conditions they may have. Also, beginning next year, most residents — by law — must have health insurance or pay penalty taxes on their 2014 tax returns.
In Sunday's editions of The Oklahoman, medical reporter Jaclyn Cosgrove and I will explain how the new marketplace may help you.
Any Oklahoma resident is welcome to shop in it, and individuals who have incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($11,490 to $23,550, or $31,322 to $94,200 for families of four) will be eligible for variable subsidies, depending on income and family size. For example, starting in January, a resident who qualifies for discounts might pay monthly insurance premiums of $200 versus $400, and the federal government would pay the insurance carrier the remainder.
According to a report by Oklahoma Watch, which The Oklahoman published Sept. 14, five insurance companies will offer plans in the state's individual marketplace.
Before subsidies, most monthly premiums will cost between $200 and $700, based on consumers' ages, tobacco use and where they live in the state, Oklahoma Watch reported. Regardless, the most any consumer in the exchange would pay per year is $6,350, counting deductibles and doctor's office and hospital co-pays.
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To preregister for, or get more information about Oklahoma's new federally-run health insurance marketplace, visit www.HealthCare.gov (the only official site) or call (800) 318-2596. Devices for the hearing impaired can use (855) 889-4325.