Recent changes in healthcare insurance regulation in the United States can make health insurance seem confusing. Caregiving often causes stress to caregivers, resulting in health complications that can become serious if there is no proper intervention. Preventive care, access to mental health resources, and proper exercise regimens become more important to informal or family caregivers, who need to stay as healthy as possible in order to care for loved ones. If you did not previously have insurance, these regulations can seem more burdensome. But do not fear. Following are tips to navigate the health insurance marketplace and make the most of your health insurance.

Changes to Insurance Coverage Laws

As it now stands, you cannot be denied coverage based on a pre-existing condition. Many people previously found they were left without health insurance by job loss or change and were unable to enroll in insurance plans because of pre-existing conditions. These include people who need daily medication, frequent surgeries, or extra help to stay healthy. Fortunately, you can no longer be denied coverage on these grounds, so if this previously stopped you from being enrolled, check the healthcare options you have available now.

Younger caregivers can stay on their parents' insurance for longer. Until the age of 26, healthcare insurers will keep you on your parents' plans unless you choose to find your own insurance. Many young people lost insurance at 18, 21 or 23 in the past, and full-time students. A Caregivers can find it difficult to get affordable coverage through other means. If you fall into this age category, consider asking your parents to keep you on their plan as long as possible.

Equal Marriage Protections

Due to the push for marriage equality, many jobs allow non-legally-married spouses to receive health insurance through their partners. This helps many who cannot or are not legally married to share health insurance. If you are legally married to someone of the same sex, the marriage equality ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court last year affords you the same legal rights as a different-gender couple that has been legally married. Talk with your partner about these options. Many workplaces have insurance representatives or contacts who can answer questions about specific policies and rules in their companies for getting coverage for loved ones.

The Marketplace

If you do not receive health insurance through a job, your spouse or parents, you should search your state's healthcare marketplace for insurance. Although there typically are enrollment periods, if you have a life change between enrollment periods (such as a job change or loss), you can still apply for health insurance. There are typically many options of low-cost plans for those in low-income brackets. Visit Healthcare.gov for information on how to apply and what kind of coverage is available to you.

Know Your Rights

Due to the Affordable Care Act, or colloquially, "ObamaCare," healthcare insurance providers have expanded responsibilities. Many types of preventive care, including birth control, are now low-cost or free to those with an insurance plan. Wellness visits, immunizations, and screenings are now almost always free. Take advantage of these options as they will frequently spot healthcare concerns before they stop you from being a healthy caregiver.

You can also not be denied care or coverage based on dollar limits. In the past, someone receiving diabetes, cancer, or mental health treatment (or any other care) could reach a limit in their care and no longer receive health care coverage. That is no longer legal. If you need long-term care services, you can also receive more services depending on your home state. Check with your local agencies for answers about the services available in your area.

Ask Questions

The best way to get coverage or better coverage is to ask questions. If you are a relative of the person for whom you provide care, there are likely ways to receive some benefits through their health insurance, especially if they are a VA member. Ask other caregivers how they get quality insurance. Some of the best recommendations come by word-of-mouth. At your place of employment check with a local insurance representative about what kind of insurance you may need and how you can arrange payment or enrollment. Contact state agencies to see if you qualify for income-based state insurance plans. Whatever you do, do not go without health insurance. Since 2014, most people without health insurance will pay a penalty along with their taxes, with exceptions only for low-income people, and you can need it suddenly, with no warning. It is now less expensive and easier to obtain insurance without receiving it through a job or spouse. This means there are better ways to plan ahead and to get preventive care that improves your ability to care for a loved one.

Sources:

AtlantaGA.gov. What the Health Care Law Means for Family Caregivers. AtlantaGA.gov. Available at http://www.atlantaga.gov/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=10554. Retrieved December 11, 2016.

Medicare.gov. Caregiving. Medicare.gov. Available at https://www.medicare.gov/campaigns/caregiver/caregiver.html. Retrieved December 11, 2016.

United Healthcare. Caregiver Support Resources. UHC.com. Available at https://www.uhc.com/health-and-wellness/family-health/caregiver-support/caregiver-support-resources. Retrieved December 11, 2016.

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