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Friday, September 30, 2011
By John D. Doak, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner
With economic concerns still weighing on many Americans and health care reform still a confusing and controversial subject, Oklahoma families should take more time than ever this year to consider their options as health insurance open enrollment begins this fall.
Rising medical costs and new coverage laws make this an opportune time to review all available options, whether you have insurance through your employer, are self-employed, or even if you are unemployed. Whatever your circumstances, health insurance choices can be complex, and the Oklahoma Insurance Department is here to help you make sense of it all.
Consider the following tips when evaluating your coverage options:
Employer-Based Group Health Insurance
If you receive health insurance through an employer, you are usually limited to open enrollment periods to make changes to your plan. Many employers expect to increase premiums, co-pays and deductibles to offset increasing health care costs, so if you have several plan options, do not automatically renew what you had this year without first making a side-by-side comparison.
Individual Health Insurance Coverage
If you are self-employed or your employer doesn't offer coverage, you face unique health insurance challenges, but you still have choices. Here are some on shopping for coverage:
Health Insurance When Unemployed
If you lost your job last year, you were likely forced to determine how, or whether, to continue your health insurance. Now is a good time to review your decision and determine if your choice is still appropriate. In addition to the options above, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives unemployed workers the right to temporarily purchase health insurance through a former employer. Although this option requires you to pay the entire premium yourself, it can provide more comprehensive coverage than a more restrictive or costly individual plan.
If you have been unemployed awhile and your family income has taken a significant hit, you and/or your children might qualify for Medicaid or Oklahoma’s SoonerCare program. Medicaid is available to low-income children, parents with dependent children, the permanently disabled, and individuals over the age of 65. SoonerCare provides low-cost health insurance coverage for children in families who earn too much income to qualify for Medicaid, but can’t afford to purchase private health insurance.
If you are a veteran, see if you qualify for free or reduced price treatment at a Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital or clinic near you.
For any other questions or concerns you might have about insurance in Oklahoma, visit the Oklahoma Insurance Department online at oid.ok.gov, or call our Consumer Assistance team at (800) 522-0071.