Watch the mail
In a normal year you would have gotten a letter from your current insurer by now informing you of any changes in your existing plan and what premiums you can expect to pay for 2018. Patients often use these letters to determine if they'll keep their current coverage and to help them compare it with any alternatives available.
But many insurers have held off on sending renewal notices because of the uncertainty over premium prices. In fact, many insurers are only just now sending out these notices.
Get off to a fast start
No matter what news you receive from your current insurer, you want to start researching your options as soon as open enrollment begins. That's because the Trump administration has significantly decreased the number of days in the open-enrollment period, so you have less time to make your decision.
In the 39 states in which the federal government runs the exchange, open enrollment runs from Nov. 1 until Dec. 15 for coverage starting January 2018.
Don't confuse cost-sharing subsidies with premium subsidies
We've discussed how cost-sharing subsidies work. Premium subsidies are different. These are the tax credits under the Affordable Care Act designed to help low- and mid-income consumers afford their monthly health insurance premium. The majority of exchange customers qualify for premium tax credits.
These tax credits aren't going away, and because they're calculated based on income and the cost of a silver level plan, in most cases premium relief increases as premium rates rise. So consumers who qualify for premium tax credits will likely see little change in how much they pay out-of-pocket for their monthly premium bill, even with the big increases insurers have put through.
However, exchange consumers who don't qualify for premium tax credits will carry the heaviest burden for the current premium hikes.
Compare premiums for all metal levels
Exchange insurance programs come in four levels: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. The higher the level, the more comprehensive the coverage, the less out-of-pocket costs and, normally, the higher the premiums.
But because cost-sharing subsidies are available only in silver plans, they've undergone the highest premium increases to make up for the lack of government funds. "Surcharges on silver plans attributed to the end of the cost-sharing payments range from 7.1 percent to 38 percent," according to a recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.