Open enrollment, the annual period where you can sign up for plans that fall under the Affordable Care Act — also popularly called Obamacare — has started.
In 2016, about 16 percent of Americans bought private individual health plans, which includes Affordable Care Act offerings sold on government exchanges, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Every year, millions of people have to make decisions about the kind of care they need. During the 2018 annual enrollment, for example, nearly 11.8 million people signed up or were automatically enrolled through the ACA.
But another choice, known as a short-term health plan, is much cheaper and designed to appeal to younger, healthier people, or people of any age who want to save money. Unlike ACA plans, you can sign up for them throughout the year.
Side-by-side, these plans cost far less. A 30-year-old woman in Chicago buying an ACA "Bronze" plan, according to Shaun Greene, senior vice president of AgileHealthInsurance, would pay $219.57 per month. If she buys a short-term plan, she'd pay approximately $120.
The White House earlier this month made a couple of important tweaks to short-term health plans, to increase their appeal to consumers. That's on top of ending the penalty for not buying standard health-care coverage.
You can now use subsidies to purchase short-term plans, depending on your state and income level. Next year, California will no longer allow these plans to be offered. Other states have enacted limits on how many times a plan can be renewed; still other states have expanded renewals.
Claire McAndrew, director of campaigns and partnerships at Families USA, an advocacy organization for health-care consumers, calls the change concerning and potentially illegal. "Federal law is very clear that those subsidies are for standard health insurance," she said.
The danger is that consumers could be diverted from buying regular health insurance.