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Health insurance shoppers beware: Smart decisions to pick a plan on more than ...

The health insurance marketplace enrollment season for 2016 is underway. Making a choice can be confusing. You may be tempted to select the lowest premium you can find. However, it is important to look at more than just the monthly premium. This article will focus on some positive actions you can do to evaluate your current needs, finding the right plan for you, and affordability.

Many people enroll in the marketplace in silver and bronze plans with the lowest premium. But for patients with regular health care needs, much of their annual health expenses are also determined by the cost-sharing structure of the plan they select. The National Health Council has created a free, online calculator, which is easy to use, helps people have a better understanding of their health insurance marketplace options, and find coverage that meets their individual health care and budget needs. The free calculator shows how an individuals total annual health care spending can vary based on plan selection.

Depending on your household income and health needs, a plan that has a higher monthly premium but offers better coverage could be a smarter choice. That is why it is worth the effort to accurately review the last years medical expenses. Next year may be different, but some needs can be projected.

In the marketplace, you may be eligible for tax credits or cost-sharing premium discounts. Tax credit subsidies are available to eligible individuals and families with incomes below 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($47,080 for an individual and $97,000 for a family of four).

But the cost-sharing discount applies only if you buy a silver plan. This is another reason the cheapest plan isnt always the best. People buying a silver plan with incomes below 250 percent of poverty ($29,425 for an individual and $60,625 for a family of four) can lower the amount they pay out of pocket for deductibles, coinsurance, and co-payments with a cost-sharing reduction discount.

Use this calculator from the Kaiser Family Foundation to estimate your subsidy.

Doctor visits, medicine, braces and glasses are some expenses you have to pay for beyond an insurance premium. The good news is there are ways to manage your health care costs to save money. Also look for related articles on reasons to have health insurance (Part 1), estimating total health care out-of-pocket expenses (Part 2), and special health savings accounts (Parts 3 and Part 4), correctly filing your federal income tax return (Part 5) and ways to save (Part 6).

Go to to check out the plans in your area, and to Enroll Michigan to find where to get in-person help. Open enrollment for 2016 ends Jan. 31. The longer you wait to sign up, the longer youll wait for coverage.

Michigan State University Extension provides information about health insurance basics, including the why, what and how for making a smart decision. Find out about Smart Choice: Health Insurance and factual information online.

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit To contact an expert in your area, visit, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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Workshop on health insurance to be held in Cherokee December 17

Fall is the season for health insurance plan enrollment. Health insurance helps individuals and families get access to care leading to better health and reduces the risk of high health care costs.

Two Smart Choice Health Insurance Basics workshops will be held on Thursday, Dec. 17 from 10:30 am to 11:30 am or at noon to 1 pm at the ISU Extension and Outreach office in Cherokee County located at 209 Centennial Drive. The workshop is free but registration is requested. Call 712-225-6196.

In addition, Health Insurance Navigator Carrie Radloff, will be at the workshops to help Iowans enroll in health coverage on the marketplace website ( or through Iowa Medicaid. Licensed navigators can assist in applying for coverage, review detailed information about health insurance plans, and determine the eligibility for cost savings.

The workshop helps those that do not have health insurance learn how to make a choice that fits their needs, says Carol Ehlers, ISU Human Sciences specialist in family finance. Talking about health insurance is a totally different language and can be confusing.

Participants in the workshop will:

*Understand why health insurance helps prevent large unexpected health care expenses

* Learn what to compare to understand cost and coverage

* Identify information needed to make a smart choice

Smart Choice Health Insurance was developed by a team of experts from across the nation led by University of Maryland Extension. Workshops are conducted locally by trained ISU Extension and Outreach specialists and supported by county extension councils.

Find this and other local programming at

Get Insured Moab comes to library on Dec. 4

This is an opportunity to understand how to shop for health insurance and how to make the most of your plan. Attendees can also learn about the Affordable Care Act and find out how it affects them, and ask questions of a team of experts. The topics covered will include: insurance basics, Medicaid and public options, tax implications of insurance enrollment, the closing of Arches Health, the changes in local options and a review of the Affordable Care Act.

Speakers who will be available to answer questions include Renee Trout from Central Utah Insurance, Utah Department of Workforce Services Medicaid Outreach Worker Tammy Berrie, Charles Kulander of Utah Health Solutions, Larson amp; Company accountant Gordon Beh, Sarah Shea of Moab Regional Hospital and others.

Free public workshop to provide information about obtaining health insurance

The Health Insurance Marketplace has seen tumultuous changes with the departure of Altius and Bridgespan, and the closing of the Arches Co-op as of Dec. 31. How will these changes affect residents of Grand Country during open enrollment, which is now in effect through Jan. 31 for 2016, and what does the future hold for the Affordable Care Act?

To help Grand County residents navigate this constantly changing health insurance marketplace, the Moab Free Health Clinic is sponsoring a health insurance clinic at the Grand County Public Library, 257 E. Center St., on Friday, Dec. 4 from 2 to 4 pm

"This is an opportunity to understand how to shop for health insurance, make the most of your plan, learn about the Affordable Care Act and how it affects you, and ask questions of a team of experts," Moab Free Health Clinic Director Beth Joseph said in a news release.

The workshop will cover a variety of health care-related topics, officials said. Those who attend will have the opportunity to learn about health insurance basics, Medicaid and public options, the tax implications of insurance enrollment and the closing of the Arches Health Plan insurance cooperative and the changes in health insurance options in Utah.

The workshop will also feature a review of the Affordable Care Act. Renee Trout from Central Utah Insurance, Tammy Berrie, Medicaid outreach worker for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, Charles Kulander of Utah Health Solutions, Gordon Beh, an accountant from Larson and Company, Sarah Shea from Moab Regional Hospital and others will speak and be available to answer questions, according to the news release.

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