On the cover of the October issue of The Syncopated Times, we published a reminder for musicians and other readers that they had six weeks to sign up for medical insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, since the ACA enrollment period would not be advertised through mainstream media. We emphasized coverage for musicians as being imperative, since most musicians are self-employed and many make less than $25,000 per year—and all are particularly vulnerable to exorbitant medical expenses.
In that brief item, we relied on the federal US website for information. Shortly thereafter we were made aware that the rules for enrollment vary from state to state.
Rebekah Verdon, CLU, ChFC, president of Balanced Financials, writes, “It’s best to check within your state for the deadlines for enrolling in the ACA. For example ‘Covered California,’ which is the exchange for the state of California, has an enrollment deadline that is later than some other states. In California the enrollment opens November 1, 2017, and goes to January 31, 2018.”
She also stressed the importance of professional guidance in locating the health coverage plan that is best for you. “The best thing to do is to find a licensed broker in your state that will help you enroll, preferably a broker that has been in business for no less than five years. The ACA made big changes in the landscape of buying ‘off exchange’ insurance as well.”
According to HealthCareForYouNow.com, “an ‘off-exchange plan’ refers to a health insurance policy that is not available for purchase within a federal or state exchange. An exchange is a government-run marketplace of health insurance plans.”
Ms. Verdon stresses that time is of the essence in securing coverage. “You only have that window whether you want to buy on or off exchange. You also have a small window to purchase your own insurance if you should no longer have coverage thru a ‘life event’ such as a job loss. Often we will get a phone call from someone who waited too long to buy their new individual coverage and we can no longer help them buy any insurance.”
She also states that it’s getting more difficult to find a professional broker who will assist you in locating a health-care package. “When looking for a seasoned broker you may have to ask around for a favor because many brokers are getting out of the individual health marketplace. When we spend time helping you pick a plan we are no longer paid a commission to sell most of the ‘on exchange’ plans and even our commission for selling ‘off exchange’ health plans is about a fifth of what it was. Most brokers are needing to concentrate on selling other types of insurance to survive.”
As for buying health insurance through the government-run exchanges, she says, “the minimum-wage employees at the 800 numbers don’t have a broker’s license and don’t understand the plans they put you into.” Ms. Verdon asserts that the staff at Balanced Financials remains committed to helping people find the best medical coverage available, “and we hope when they or their friends need other types of insurance they will remember us.”
Balanced Financials is based in Encino, California, and may be reached by telephone at (818) 728-6590. Visit their website at balancedfinancials.com.