Open enrollment for Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans was a great time to sort through your health insurance options. Did you stay with the plan you had last year, go for extra coverage or find something less expensive? If you didn’t find everything you needed all wrapped up in one plan for the right price, now’s the time to consider how supplemental insurance plans can fill gaps left by ACA plans.
Think of a supplemental plan as an extra layer of protection. When your ACA plan doesn’t cover enough of the cost of some medical services — or doesn’t cover certain things at all — you still have options.
Who Should Consider a Supplemental Plan?
If you’re in one of the following hypothetical situations or are facing something similar, having the extra coverage supplemental insurance provides can really pay off.
You have a high-deductible ACA plan. A supplemental insurance plan might be able to cover some of your out-of-pocket expenses, like deductibles, copays or coinsurance payments.
You’re recovering from an illness that’s put you out of work for a while. Some supplemental health plans give you the option of receiving either one large lump sum or smaller payouts spread out over your recovery time. The money can replace lost wages, go toward medication or even take care of extra transportation and other costs you may incur due to your injury or illness.
- You get a little too enthusiastic during a pickup basketball game and wind up with a broken shoulder. Accident insurance can help you absorb the costs of surprise surgeries and other medical emergencies.
- Hold on — open enrollment is over? If you missed the window and need temporary coverage, in some states short-term insurance can provide coverage for up to 364 days (with up to two renewals), helping you stay on track until you figure something else out.
What Type of Supplemental Plan Is Right for Me?
With a little care, you can mix, match and combine supplemental and standard health insurance options to get exactly the coverage you need without having to pay for extra coverage you won’t use. Here are some of the most common things a supplemental plan can cover.
- Accidents. Accident insurance plans can cover your medical costs and living expenses while you recover from a car crash or other accident.
- Trips to the hospital. If you have a medical emergency, a hospital indemnity plan can provide coverage for the hospital stay, as well as help with overwhelming out-of-pocket expenses.
- Major illnesses. Critical illness insurance covers illnesses like cancer, organ transplants and heart attacks with cash benefits paid out per procedure or treatment.
- Gaps in coverage. If open enrollment ended and you didn’t buy an ACA plan, short-term insurance may be able to see you through to your next opportunity.
Supplemental plans can also cover dental, vision and other needs, as well as specific services like telemedicine. Each plan is different, so look for the coverage that fits your situation.
Where (and When) Do I Buy Supplemental Insurance?
You can purchase a supplemental plan the same way you purchase any health insurance — through an insurance broker, a private Marketplace, your employer if they offer it or directly from an insurer. If you decide to go for a plan, don’t worry about trying to remember when open enrollment is. You can enroll in a supplemental insurance plan whenever you want.
Buying insurance is a long-term decision. Getting the wrong insurance can come back to bite you months after you’ve chosen a plan. It’s impossible to predict exactly what kind of coverage you’ll need later on, but you can make a fairly good guess. Think carefully about how often you see doctors (and whether they’re primary care providers or specialists), what your family history looks like and where the gaps in your ACA plan’s coverage are (if it has any). Ask yourself all the right questions to make sure your needs dictate getting a new plan.
Open enrollment is just the start of your insurance journey. But that doesn’t mean it’s never too late to fill in the gaps of your primary plan. Check out your options for supplemental insurance now, before you really need them.