Five Things to Know About Open Enrollment
The annual Health Insurance Open Enrollment period is underway and there are a few important things you need to know. Whether you purchase a policy through the Marketplace, an individual agent or receive coverage through your employer, open enrollment is the time when you can select new or make changes to your existing health insurance coverage. Here are five things you need to know about open enrollment this year:
1. The dates of open enrollment can change year to year
- The open enrollment period is November 1, 2015 through January 31, 2016. This year’s deadline is 15 days earlier than last year’s open enrollment deadline. If you do not elect coverage by January 31, you will be unable to get healthcare coverage unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period due to a life change like, marriage, having a baby or losing other coverage. If you need health insurance coverage to start on January 1, 2016, you must elect coverage by December 15, 2015.
2. You may be eligible for a subsidy to help with premiums.
- According to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, about 90 percent of people in Louisiana who purchased coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace receive subsidies. The subsidy is available for people with family incomes between 100% and 400% of the poverty level who buy coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. To find out if you may be eligible for a subsidy or tax credit, check out www.healthcare.gov.
3. The penalty for not having coverage is increasing.
- The penalty is increasing this year, to 2.5% of yearly household income or $695 for each person in your household who is not covered ($347.50 per child under 18), whichever is higher. If you did not have coverage in 2015, you’ll pay the higher of $325 per person without coverage in the household or 2% of your yearly household income. All penalties are payable on the federal income tax return you file for the year you don’t have coverage.
4. Your 2015 plan may no longer be available in 2016.
- Plans can change from year to year and some plans that were available on the 2015 Marketplace may no longer be available. The Louisiana Health Cooperative (CO-OP) will no longer offer coverage in 2016. If you are a CO-OP customer, as long as you continue paying your premiums you will have coverage until the end of the year. In order to have coverage past December 31, 2015, you will need to elect a new plan. See our frequently asked questions for more information on the CO-OP.
5. Going to out-of-network providers can be expensive.
- Make sure to review the doctors and other medical providers in a plan’s network. When you go out-of-network, you could face a higher coinsurance percentage. You could even be billed for 100 percent of the costs when you seek out-of-network care.
Steer Clear for Deer
Louisiana is truly the sportsman' paradise. Around this time of the year, many hunters have wild game in their crosshairs. But even if you're not a fan of this sport, you should have your sights set on safety when getting behind the wheel of your vehicle.
More deer accidents occur in October and November than the rest of the year. The National Highway Safety Administration (NHSA) reports there are about 1.5 million annual deer-related auto accidents. Vehicle collisions with deer and other animals can be costly and dangerous. To help you stay safe this fall, here are some tips from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).
The Right Coverage
Damage to a vehicle from a collision with an animal is covered under comprehensive coverage. If you only have collision or liability coverage, your insurance carrier will not cover damage to your vehicle. The NHSA estimates that damage caused by deer accidents results in over $1 billion in annual insured losses. To make sure your vehicle is covered, consider contacting your agent to discuss adding comprehensive coverage to your policy. A comprehensive auto insurance policy also covers fire, theft, vandalism, riot, flood, earthquake, hail, windstorm and fall objects.
Avoiding Animal Collisions
Taking precautions can help reduce your chances of an animal collision. Here are some tips to consider:
- Deer tend to travel in herds, so if you see one, lookout for more that may follow.
- Keep an eye out for deer signs and reduce your speed when you see one.
- Animals tend to be active during dawn and dusk so be extra-conscious during these times.
- Make sure your headlights are in working order to ensure you see well at night. Using high beams can help you spot wildlife, but be considerate of other drivers when using them.
- Stay focused while driving. Do not text, talk on your phone or allow passengers to distract you.
- Always wear your seatbelt. This won’t prevent a collision but it can save your life if you’re involved in an accident.
What to do After an Accident
Some accidents are unavoidable. Knowing how to react in the event of an animal collision can help keep you safe. If you are about to hit a deer, hold firmly onto the steering wheel, apply your brakes and come to a stop. If you can’t avoid a collision, try not to swerve as you could lose control and hit a tree or veer into oncoming traffic. After an animal collision, follow the steps below:
- Stay calm.
- If you can, move your vehicle to a safe place and turn on your hazard lights.
- Stay away from the animal. A frightened or wounded animal can lash out and hurt you.
- If you can’t move your vehicle or the animal carcass is blocking traffic, alert the authorities so they can clear the roadway.
- Document the incident by taking photos of your damage, the roadway and any injuries sustained.
- Assess the damage to your vehicle. Check for leaking fluid, damaged lights, loose parts or other safety hazards. When in doubt, call a tow truck.
Turkey Talk: Keys to Thanksgiving Safety
Whether you’re staying in or going out, cooking a feast from scratch or bringing a store-bought dessert, Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for the ones you love and to make sure that they are protected. Above all, common sense and care are the best ingredients for a happy and safe holiday season.
Before the Big Day:
- Check fire and smoke alarms to ensure that they are working properly at the start of the holiday season.
- Make sure that you have a fire extinguisher handy in the kitchen in the event of an emergency.
- Before you begin cooking, make sure that your stove top and oven are free of built up grease and that the elements are free of food particles which can cause smoke.
- Double check before the holiday to make sure that you have all the ingredients necessary for a fabulous Thanksgiving feast! If you realize that you have forgotten an ingredient, don’t leave food cooking unattended while you run out to the store. It only takes a moment for a fire to start.
- If you are frying your turkey, remember that frying outside is always recommended. Also, allow your turkey enough time to properly thaw before putting it into the fryer. The ice in a partially frozen turkey can cause the oil to spill over and catch fire.
- Turkey needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. The best way to be sure is to use a meat thermometer. Stuffing cooked inside the bird should also be cooked to 165 degrees to be safe.
- Move slowly and carefully while moving food around the kitchen. Don’t risk spilling hot oil or grease by being in a rush.
- In case of an oven fire, turn off the oven, keep the door closed and call 911. You and your guests should wait outside until the firefighters arrive.
- More than 43.4 million Americans will be traveling 50 miles or more away from home on Thanksgiving. With so many cars on the road, there are bound to be delays. Leave yourself enough time to arrive at your destination safely and stress-free.
- Make sure that you lock all windows and doors. One-third of burglaries take place in homes where thieves are able to get in through an open door or window.
- Never announce travel plans over social media. An unoccupied home is a great target for thieves.
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