If you’re among the one in five owner-operators carrying health insurance purchased in prior years via the HealthCare.gov or state-administered health-insurance exchanges, the time to shop competitive plans or adjust coverage levels begins November 1, this Friday.
And if you’re among the three in 10 owner-operators who’ve avoided health coverage of any kind, consequently paying hundreds of dollars tax penalties in recent years as mandated by the Affordable Care Act, there’s good news: The penalty disappeared, starting with 2019.
ACA’s annual open enrollment period for 2020 closes Dec. 15 for new-plan buyers and those updating old plans or changing coverage elections.
Plans available via the exchanges come in Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels, representing increasingly broad coverage with less insured responsibility for copays or coinsurance. According to early reports, a new influx of insurers this year means premium rates are more competitive in many states. Judging by published rates, analyses show premium costs are down 4 percent or more from 2018 levels.
Residents of most states can shop plans via the central HealthCare.gov portal. Residents of California, Colorado, Connecticut, D.C., Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington should work through state-administered exchanges directly. Find a list of them with contact information via OverdriveOnline.com, searching “Affordable Care Act.”
Long-established options for health care coverage specific to the trucking community can be worth comparing, as well. Some offer assistance in shopping the exchanges. Consider well-known outlets like the National Association of Independent Truckers’ “Truckers Insurance Exchange” (TIEMarketplace.com), the TrueChoices private exchange (TrueChoices.com) operated by the TrueNorth company, and the minimum essential coverage and more offered by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA.com).
Individual insurers and agencies can be a pathway toward ACA exchange plans as well. As with the trucking-focused services listed, some, like Progressive with its eHealth online engine (Progressive.com/insurance/health), can help calculate any income-based subsidy you might be eligible for to offset a health plan’s premiums.