Opinion: Know Your Health Insurance Options |

KIERSTEN IWAI

Perhaps this winter break you can take some time to rest, relax, and take care of yourself. We recommend that part of this self-care include checking your health insurance. Yes, I know, not exactly what you’d like to do with your free time, but we promise your future you will thank you!

Why is health insurance important? Well, for one thing, we are still in the midst of a public health crisis. Second, we know how quickly injuries can happen, especially when skiing or just walking on icy sidewalks! Third, if you are a student in the university system you must be covered unless you are a student who is qualified for the Indian Health Service.

At Forward Montana, we partner with young people across the state and realize how confusing systems like politics and health care can be. That is why we are here to try to demystify your options.

If you’re employed and insured through your employer or through your parents’ plan, great! You’re done (thanks, Affordable Care Act). Whether you are in the state or out of state, the best thing to do is to check your network so you can see doctors who are on the network. Doctors who are not insured (AKA outside the network) can be a drain on your wallet as you have to pay more to see them, sometimes a lot more.

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If you’re not on your parents’ plan and aren’t getting insurance through your workplace, don’t panic. Choose from Montana Medicaid, the Health Insurance Marketplace, and the Montana University System student plan.

Montana Medicaid offers comprehensive insurance coverage, free or at low cost. This means that the majority of your healthcare costs will be covered by Montana Medicaid. For a single person, you can qualify if you earn less than $ 1,481 per month or $ 17,774 per year. As you earn more, you may be able to purchase a Marketplace plan.

The Montana Marketplace has plans that you may already be familiar with, like Blue Cross Blue Shield. Most Montans who sign up for these plans are eligible for tax credits that make their monthly payments more affordable (another provision of the Affordable Care Act). Thanks to the American rescue plan law, plans are also more affordable than ever. You have until January 15th to register. So stop by today to make sure you’re covered on time.

The final option for students in Montana is the Montana University System student plan. Students who earn at least six credits can purchase this option. The Academic Blue plan offers extensive coverage, and students can choose to purchase the plan during registration … but it comes with a significant cost. Academic Blue costs about $ 385 per month and does not qualify for free financial aid such as tax credits. If you have financial assistance it can be paid for by it, but we did the numbers and it’s approximately $ 18,000 on top of your existing student loan debt for four years of schooling.

We know this world of health insurance is complicated and chaotic, especially when you are trying to find your way around on your own. Until federal policy reforms health insurance inequalities, we still need to make sure we meet our health needs. Students have more choices than ever before, so please don’t wait too long! Open registration for the health insurance marketplace ends on January 15th. To learn more about your insurance options and get free help, visit healthcare.gov or covermt.org. We hope everyone can take a few minutes to see if there is better, cheaper healthcare out there.

Kiersten Iwai is the managing director of Forward Montana.

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