This year, Christmas shopping should include health insurance.

Olivia Riutta

Who doesn’t love a deal? Especially at this time of the year, many of us want to find groceries and Christmas gifts at the best price. And we all have a friend who got a great bargain on Black Friday.

But this year, the offers don’t stop there. Health insurance coverage on the marketplace is cheaper than ever. With changes in federal law, the average cost of a health plan in Montana is only $142 per month. However, a third of Montanans can get coverage for less than $10 a month and up 86% are eligible for a tax credit to make their monthly premiums more affordable.

Think about what you spend $10 on. For the cost of one lunch a day a month, you can rest easy knowing you’re covered. Even if you’ve applied in the past and found the coverage unaffordable, apply again because you might be surprised at what you qualify for.

But it gets even better. Coverage isn’t just affordable. The plans on the marketplace cover doctor visits, prescription drugs, emergencies, and hospitalizations. And many have free preventative visits like vaccinations and yearly visits to healthy women. Even if you’re one of the nearly 50,000 Montanans who have already purchased their health insurance through the Montana Marketplace, now is the time to look around and see if there’s a better plan for you.

One application can help you find out if you’re eligible for Montana Medicaid, Healthy Montana Kids, or a Health Insurance Marketplace plan. If you qualify for Medicaid and apply through the marketplace, your application will automatically be submitted to Montana Medicaid. In Missoula County, 28,270 residents, or 24%, have Medicaid, Medicaid expansion, or Healthy Montana Kids health insurance.

Many Montanans have questions about applying for and registering for health insurance, but the good news is help is available. Cover Montana’s certified application consultants and navigators are on hand to answer questions and guide you through the application process. Our service is always free and confidential, and events are held across the state to help people sign up. For a complete list of registration wizards, see CoverMT.org. Montana Navigators can also assist with registration over the phone with the same free, confidential assistance. The number is 1-877-568-6284 or (406) 430-0005.

But just like a sellout, it won’t last long. To have coverage for 2022, you must enroll by December 15th. However, you have until January 15 to take out health insurance, which starts on February 1. After January 15th, most people will have to wait until the next open registration period.

Christmas shopping should be about more than finding gifts for others. Treat yourself to the gift of rest. Take the time to do a little shopping to find affordable health insurance for you and your family. It’s a gift that lasts all year round. Visit www.CoverMT.org to learn more, see what you qualify for, and find local support.

Olivia Riutta is Director of Population Health at the Montana Primary Care Association (MPCA) and leads Cover Montana. Cover Montana is a program of MPCA that works to connect Montaners with information and enrollment assistance to find a health insurance plan that is right for their monthly budget and health care needs.

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