OOIDA debuts new health insurance option 'Minimum Essential Coverage'

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | 4/19/2017

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is offering individuals and families a low-cost health care option that will keep them out of the penalty box come tax time.

OOIDA’s Medical Benefits Group is now offering Minimum Essential Coverage plans for individuals and families. The plans offer coverage of preventive services and screenings, while also satisfying the requirements of the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act.

Because the plans are not offered through the Health Care Marketplace, they can be purchased anytime, according to Rick Welsh, broker with Welsh and Associates.

“(Minimum Essential Coverage) is preventive care,” Welsh said. “It’s a very low-cost option because it’s only preventive services, but it satisfies the requirements for insurance and you don’t have to pay the tax penalty.”

For those who do not currently have insurance and who purchase an MEC plan, a prorated tax penalty would still apply for the months the individual was without health insurance. So if a plan was purchased with an effective date of May 1, the individual would owe a prorated tax penalty for the four months he or she did not have insurance.

Welsh’s company worked with OOIDA to create an insurance package for independent truckers and drivers who do not have the option of purchasing health insurance from an employer. Plans are available for premiums as low as $65 for a single member to $162 for families.

Covered screenings for adults under the MEC include blood pressure, cholesterol, colorectal cancer (ages 50 to 75), diabetes, obesity and depression. Plans also cover vaccinations, counseling and contraception. Preventive services, screenings and vaccines are also included in the family plans for women and children.

“It’s not a huge dollar amount, it gets you out of the tax penalty, and you can go in for your annual checkups and screenings,” Welsh said. “For your member who’s decided not to participate in ACA, and is asking, ‘What’s the minimum I can buy and not have to pay a tax penalty?’ That’s MEC.”

It’s important to note that Minimum Essential Coverage plans are not the same as a typical “major medical” insurance plan that would cover doctor’s visits, hospital stays or prescription drugs. Welsh says OOIDA’s Medical Benefits group does have other products available to address some of those areas of need, such as Voluntary Hospital Indemnity Insurance.

Welsh said that despite the stated plans from President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, the individual mandate requiring the purchase of insurance is here to stay.

“There’s no ifs ands or buts; what (Trump) was trying to get through still included an individual mandate, because the insurance industry needs an individual mandate to make this work,” he said. “So the individual mandate is not going away. I would caution people (waiting on a potential repeal of the law) that you need to prepare for today. If there are changes to the law, you can drop the coverage that month if you want. But everything I’ve seen still includes an individual mandate.”

Not having health insurance could cost you at tax time. In 2016, the penalty for not having an ACA-compliant insurance plan or forgoing coverage altogether was the greater of either $695 per adult plus $347.50 per child or 2.5 percent of family income in excess of the previous year’s income tax filing thresholds. The penalty is capped at an amount equal to the national average premium for a Bronze plan, which is the minimum coverage available by law. In 2016, that cap was $2,085 for a family. Beginning in 2017, the flat fee portion of the penalty will be indexed to inflation. Fees are paid as a part of the filing process for federal income tax returns.

Agents in OOIDA’s Medical Benefits Group are available from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. CST, Monday through Friday, at 800-715-9369 or via email at MedBen@ooida.com.

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