If you have Individual & Family Plan (IFP) clients – or employees at any of your groups looking for an alternative to COBRA continuation – it’s important you know about the IFP Open Enrollment that starts November 1, 2021, and ends January 31, 2022.
As Word & Brown’s Individual Sales Representative Duncan Shader notes, it can sometimes be more effective to consider COBRA continuation only in certain circumstances. Some individuals who lose coverage during the final months of the year may want to ride out the COBRA offer period and apply for IFP coverage during Open Enrollment for January 1, 2022, coverage to save money.
Because eligible individuals can take COBRA at any time during their 60-day COBRA election period, a continuation may make sense only if a medical need arises. If there is not a medical need, the delayed enrollment could save them on premium, their applicable deductible, or out-of-pocket costs. If there is a need, they can sign up and pay their COBRA premium, with coverage retroactive to their group coverage end date. They can then drop COBRA for the 1/1/22 or 2/1/22 effective date and go to IFP coverage under open enrollment rules with no need to prove a qualifying event.
Of course, not all customers will want to – or should – consider this strategy. You will want to discuss the costs and risks with your customers before their COBRA election period ends.
It is important to note that individuals are only COBRA eligible for certain “qualifying events.” If you or they are in doubt, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) offers a COBRA Continuation Coverage on its website here.
Answering early calls about renewal: Health plans are already mailing notices to customers about upcoming renewals for 2022. Unfortunately, not all of the carriers have released full rate information for 1/1/22. Be cautious when attempting to map clients to a new plan based on premium only. While the premium in the replacement plan may be similar, it may come with a much-higher deductible or copays. Suggest to your early bird clients that it might be better to hold off on any decision to change plans until 11/1 or later; that way, we are guaranteed to have all of the necessary information from the carriers. The cut-off for enrolling for 1/1 coverage is mid-December, so that still leaves ample time to get your clients signed up for a new plan, if necessary.
Email or call Duncan if you have IFP-related questions; he can reached by phone at (714) 567-4657, by cell at (714) 307-1003, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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