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Let’s be honest. The sooner we can get 2020 in the rearview mirror, the better, right? With the pandemic, millions experiencing unemployment, and even “murder hornets” in the Pacific Northwest there for a minute, surely 2021 will be a better year for everyone.

The pandemic really put a magnifying glass on our healthcare system and all of its moving parts. There were early shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators and ongoing scrambles for testing sites and therapeutics. We all witnessed first-hand what our healthcare platforms’ strengths and weaknesses were. So, with all of the country’s brightest minds and innovators on board, what lessons have we learned. And more importantly, what new improvements can we expect for healthcare in 2021?

The Pandemic Shifts Everything

The pandemic has shifted Americans’ priorities. Shelter in place orders had everyone realizing that work and school from home were possible. It also forced families to spend time together, an occurrence that only a year ago seemed so foreign to busy households. COVID-19 has also put healthcare front and center. And even those who are young and healthy are now taking a more serious approach to staying healthy.

How People Connect with Medical Professionals
Healthcare in 2021 is expected to present more virtual options. People will still need to connect with physicians and medical professionals but in a safe environment. Venturing out into busy waiting rooms among the potentially infected can be life-threatening for some individuals. Virtual and tele-health options will become more available to everyone, reducing those unnecessary risks. And with some platforms, doctors can visit with patients, confirm diagnoses, and prescribe medications remotely.

What People Need from their Health Insurance
It used to be that health insurance coverage was a financial safety net to help supplement those unforeseen hospital stays or emergency room visits. But today, people need more from their health insurance providers. Individuals and families alike need their coverages and plans to include other services, including COVID-19 testing, mental health services, and prescriptions. Americans want their insurance to cover healthy lifestyle choices and not just illness and injury remedies.

A New Rising Concern for Comorbidities & Preventive Care
The pandemic also brought more attention to conditions and risk factors. Those with what the experts considered to be comorbidities, including diabetes and asthma, were at more risk of having adverse reactions to the Coronavirus. There are also concerns about Americans forgoing their routine preventive care screenings out of fear of contracting the virus. Postponing mammograms, colonoscopies, and biopsies means missing precious time needed for early diagnosis and recoveries. Healthcare in 2021 will include getting everyone back to performing those much-needed appointments and taking precautions to safeguard those with a risky family medical history or existing comorbidity.

Health Insurance Changes for 2021

Americans can expect a few changes in health insurance coverage options for 2021. And most will be for the better and enhance existing plans and offerings.

An Influx of New Individuals Needing Health Insurance
As millions lost their jobs due to the shuttering of businesses and mitigation efforts, there was an influx of people flocking to the Marketplace. The Affordable Care Act provides affordable health insurance options to anyone experiencing a Qualifying Life Event, including job loss. With so much increased demand in health insurance, experts were speculating that the Marketplace exchanges would see a rise in requests for tax benefit subsidies and a fall in quality plan offerings. But those industry opinions may be wrong.

Premium Costs & Price Fluctuations
There have been some unknowns going into this year’s Open Enrollment regarding the price of health insurance plans for 2021. Some health insurance providers offering coverage options via the Marketplace imposed marginal increases in premiums to help offset some of the healthcare costs associated with COVID-19. But many insurance companies were also able to lower some of their rates. So, when you look to buy a plan for healthcare in 2021, you might spend a modest amount more than you’re used to seeing.

Are Pre-existing Conditions Covered?
The Affordable Care Act was designed, of course, to offer quality health insurance options to all qualifying Americans, at an affordable rate and without regard for pre-existing conditions. But the pandemic and politics both have people wondering if those pre-existing condition protections will remain for healthcare in 2021. And there are speculations about the long-term effects COVID-19 is having on some patients who contract the disease. The good news is you may not have to worry about any immediate changes for 2021 coverage. For now, pre-existing conditions will not determine whether or not you’re eligible for affordable health insurance plans.

Open Enrollment Is Happening Now

If you’re planning for healthcare in 2021, then you more than likely already know that the ACA Marketplace is in Open Enrollment now through December 15th. Now is the time to browse and select the health insurance providers to protect you and your family next year.

Special Enrollment Periods, Catastrophic & Short-Term Plans
If you have insurance now and don’t need to enroll in new coverage for 2021, you’ll still want to know your options. Come 2021, if you find yourself unemployed, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, allowing you to browse the Marketplace for plans. And if times get really tough for you financially, you may even be eligible for catastrophic or short-term health insurance plans.

Finding Available Subsidies
There are subsidies available to help offset the monthly premium rates for plans available on the Marketplace. When you apply, you’ll want to project your potential income and describe your household dynamics. Once approved, you’ll be able to tap into those premium tax benefits to make your healthcare in 2021 that much more affordable.

More Support Around Every Corner
You can also expect that healthcare in 2021 will come with enhanced support, options, and tools at your disposal. The pandemic has forced many industries to innovate in new virtual ways. And the tech segments are improving how data gets transmitted between insurance companies, healthcare providers, and consumers, as well.

Healthcare in 2021 may look a little different than what you’re accustomed to, but in most cases, it’s for the better. And when you’re ready to explore your health insurance plans on the Marketplace, the W3LL professionals are here to help you navigate.

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