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Switching from COBRA to private plan
Old 09-15-2015, 01:44 PM   #1
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Switching from COBRA to private plan

Hi all.
I retired in Jan 2015 (age 56) and started COBRA immediately. It covers my wife and I, as well as our two kids (ages 21,19). We live in Arizona. It's a PPO and the monthly premium is ~$1,400.
Questions:
- Am I likely to find a cheaper plan individually?
- Can I change plans before the 18 mos is up for COBRA?
- Is it worth it to use a consultant to help pick a plan?
- Best places to shop for a new plan?

Thanks for any help.
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Old 09-15-2015, 02:18 PM   #2
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great question - I will be facing this decision in the very near future myself.
Will subscribe to see the solutions offered ~esp the last 2 points...
- Is it worth it to use a consultant to help pick a plan?
- Best places to shop for a new plan?
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Old 09-15-2015, 02:46 PM   #3
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I can answer only one of your questions.

Yes, you can stop COBRA before the 18 mos is complete. You should be paying the "COBRA Provider" (usually a 3rd party administering COBRA for your ex-employer) monthly premiums. You just stop paying when you switch providers. I'd suggest contacting them directly as well, so they know. Plus, I'd also suggest a month overlap btwn COBRA and your new plan, just so you know everything's in place with no coverage gap.

I'm currently using COBRA and will switch to TriCare shortly. So, I don't know much about the cost of ACA plans.
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Old 09-15-2015, 02:51 PM   #4
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- Am I likely to find a cheaper plan individually? Best places to shop for a new plan? It is difficult to say if an ACA plan with the same PPO coverage will be cheaper. There will certainly be cheaper HMO/EPO plans but they come at the expense of smaller provider network coverage and higher deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums (OOPM). You can visit HealthSherpa.com to review current 2015 plans. You can visit ValuePenguin.com to see a partial list of 2016 plans that will be available. The complete list and their final premium rates will not be public until 11/1/15 on the Healthcare.gov website. If you qualify for an ACA premium subsidy, you must obtain the plan through Healthcare.gov, otherwise you can purchase directly from the insurer or an agent.

- Can I change plans before the 18 mos is up for COBRA? You can voluntarily end COBRA and enroll in an exchange plan during the ACA Open Enrollment period 11/1/15-12/15/15 with coverage effective 1/1/16. Voluntarily ending COBRA any other time of the year does not create an ACA Special Enrollment Period. You may be interested in this E-R post. Member shortstop14 also makes a good point in that post. With COBRA ending mid-year, you would have two deductibles to satisfy in 2016. By changing during Open Enrollment, you only have to satisfy the ACA plan deductible.

- Is it worth it to use a consultant to help pick a plan? It depends on your knowledge of health insurance terminology. Each ACA plan has a fact sheet template that lists the plan's deductible, OOPM, copays, and coinsurance. This makes it easy to compare plans on the surface. However, once you have several plans you're interested in, it's very important to review their provider network directory for coverage. Are your local doctors and hospitals included? If you travel frequently to one specific destination, does it have in-network coverage? If you travel infrequently to different locations, are you okay with the emergency coverage included in all ACA plans or would you want a greater level of coverage? This is where the members of this forum and/or the free ACA Local Help centers can help you through the process.
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Old 09-15-2015, 03:22 PM   #5
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wow - thanks for the help and answers - one of the reason I joined this forum is getting this kind of guidance.
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Old 09-15-2015, 05:04 PM   #6
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Great feedback - much appreciated.
Thanks to all.
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Old 09-15-2015, 05:48 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SCGamecock View Post
- Am I likely to find a cheaper plan individually? Best places to shop for a new plan? It is difficult to say if an ACA plan with the same PPO coverage will be cheaper. There will certainly be cheaper HMO/EPO plans but they come at the expense of smaller provider network coverage and higher deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums (OOPM). You can visit HealthSherpa.com to review current 2015 plans. You can visit ValuePenguin.com to see a partial list of 2016 plans that will be available. The complete list and their final premium rates will not be public until 11/1/15 on the Healthcare.gov website. If you qualify for an ACA premium subsidy, you must obtain the plan through Healthcare.gov, otherwise you can purchase directly from the insurer or an agent.

- Can I change plans before the 18 mos is up for COBRA? You can voluntarily end COBRA and enroll in an exchange plan during the ACA Open Enrollment period 11/1/15-12/15/15 with coverage effective 1/1/16. Voluntarily ending COBRA any other time of the year does not create an ACA Special Enrollment Period. You may be interested in this E-R post. Member shortstop14 also makes a good point in that post. With COBRA ending mid-year, you would have two deductibles to satisfy in 2016. By changing during Open Enrollment, you only have to satisfy the ACA plan deductible.

- Is it worth it to use a consultant to help pick a plan? It depends on your knowledge of health insurance terminology. Each ACA plan has a fact sheet template that lists the plan's deductible, OOPM, copays, and coinsurance. This makes it easy to compare plans on the surface. However, once you have several plans you're interested in, it's very important to review their provider network directory for coverage. Are your local doctors and hospitals included? If you travel frequently to one specific destination, does it have in-network coverage? If you travel infrequently to different locations, are you okay with the emergency coverage included in all ACA plans or would you want a greater level of coverage? This is where the members of this forum and/or the free ACA Local Help centers can help you through the process.
I'm glad someone covered the cancelling of cobra does not make a qualifying event.... not just for ACA plans, but all plans, sans short term non-compliant plans.
The OP asked about being a consultant to get other insurance. If your consultant gig has insurance offered, then yes you can switch insurance. I'm not sure just because you get hired as a consultant without health benefits would qualify you for a special enrollment period. I would expect that it wouldn't.
As others mentioned... be careful of the networks covered by insurance, both one and off the ACA site. Buying insurance is a lot of work... especially as an individual.
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