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7 tips from enrollment experts to make signing up for health insurance easier

Whether you're signing up for the first time or changing your existing plan, help is available online, in-person and over the phone. Sponsored by Premera Blue Cross.

SEATTLE — Whether you're signing up for the first time or changing your existing plan, the process can be overwhelming. Mary McHale, Associate Director of Outreach at the Washington Health Benefit Exchange and Daphne Pie, Manager of Access and Outreach at Public Health of Seattle & King County gave us some insight sure to make the process easier.

When do I sign up?

Open enrollment is currently open through Dec. 15th.  You can only sign up once a year during this time unless you have a qualifying life event. It is important to not wait until the last minute to sign up. "There are many options available so make sure you give yourself enough time to sort through them," recommended Mary 

How do I find out what all my insurance options are?

Individuals looking to sign up can easily search through their options online with the Washington Health Plan Finder. There, you can access insurance brokers and navigators that can help recommend plans and help you along the way.

King County's website also has a list of resources and phone numbers you can call if you need help. 

Do I have to sign up for health insurance?

Generally, individuals who get covered through their job do not sign up. This open enrollment period is for those who are self-employed or work for an employer that doesn't offer health insurance.

I have questions about individual plans and how it all works.  How can I get help?

There are hundreds of experts called Navigators throughout the state who are tested and certified to help you get the coverage you need. When a person requests help, "That navigator can actually go into their account, see where they're stuck at, and help them move through the application process and get approved," said Mary. You can get help from a Navigator by signing up on the Washington Health Plan Finder website. 

What paperwork or info do I need before I sign up?

Daphne recommended gathering several things before you apply: family size, estimated income, social security number, and your kids' birth dates. Those who are self-employed should also have their tax return handy, "Having that information will help speed along the process."

If you can't locate the info, Daphne said the wahealthplanfinder.org is "Set up to verify information without you not even having it." This way, people can start the application and come back at a later date with the information they need to gather. 

How can I tell if a plan includes my provider and medication?

Knowing and listing the medications you take helps to find the plan best for you. "We do have the smart plan finder where you can plug in your providers [and] medications, and it will show you which plans covers which providers and which medications," explained Mary, "We always encourage people to call your provider if you're thinking of choosing a specific plan. Make sure that they're covered under it just so you have all the information you need to make a solid choice."

I enrolled last year, do I have to enroll again?

If you signed up last year during open enrollment, you'll automatically be enrolled in the same plan for next year. "Even if you are auto-enrolled into your plan, you can still go online and really just make sure that this is still the plan you would like to be in," said Mary, "There are a number of new options this year and we really just want folks to be in a plan that works for them." They added, "A majority of folks will actually see lower premiums this year."

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