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Health Insurance

BISMARCK, N.D. – As the 2018 Open Enrollment Period will begin on Nov. 1 and end Dec. 15, many North Dakotans must soon make critical decisions about their 2018 health insurance amid a barrage of news and opinions regarding healthcare. To help make the most informed decisions possible, the North Dakota Insurance Department encourages consumers to streamline their health insurance research process.

“Health insurance plans and coverage can change drastically from year to year,” Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread said. “This is why it is so critical that as the Open Enrollment Period begins, North Dakotans thoroughly research coverage options to determine the best plan for themselves and their families.”

According to the U.S. Census and Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2016, most North Dakotans accessed health insurance in one of three ways:

  • Employer-sponsored – 55 percent participated in a group health insurance plan offered by their employer. This includes employees of large and small private companies, federal, state and local government employees and active military.
  • Public Programs – 29 percent received healthcare benefits through Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Individually-purchased – 8 percent purchased health insurance on their own through the marketplace or an agent.
  • Uninsured – 8 percent remained uninsured.

Within each method there are important developments and information consumers should keep in mind as the Open Enrollment Period begins:

Employer-sponsored Health Insurance

  • If already covered by an employer-sponsored plan, consumers should pay close attention to enrollment options this year. Premiums and coverage limits may have changed.
  • If an individual has recently changed jobs or plans to change employment, they may be subject to a probationary period, up to 90 days, during which they are ineligible for group coverage.
  • If coverage from a previous employer is lost, an individual typically has 60 days to enroll in private individual insurance through a Special Enrollment Period.
  • Consumers are encouraged to contact their employer with questions about their Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account, or if they have questions about enrolling in either.

Public Health Care Programs

  • Medicare and Medicaid are government programs that help pay for health care. However, benefits, costs and eligibility requirements differ:
    • Medicare is a federally funded program available to most U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents age 65 or older who have lived continuously in the country for at least five years. People younger than 65 may also be eligible for Medicare if they are disabled, suffer from kidney failure or ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).
    • By contrast, Medicaid is jointly funded by federal and state governments. Eligibility is means-based and the program has strict income requirements that vary from state to state.
  • Open enrollment for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug coverage (Part D) takes place from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, 2017. If an individual misses the deadline and didn’t experience a qualifying event, they can still apply during general enrollment (Jan. 1 through March 31 of each year), though they will have to pay a premium penalty.
  • High-income earners (above $133,500) may see increases in 2018 Medicare Part B premiums. Enrollees should contact Medicare for an estimate and plan accordingly.
  • Medicaid enrollees should pay particular attention to possible changes to eligibility and coverage options.

Individually-purchased Health Insurance

  • The 2018 Open Enrollment Period will run Nov. 1 through Dec. 15, 2017. Coverage begins Jan. 1, 2018. Consumers can begin researching their options at any time.
  • Those who currently have coverage through the Exchange and do not choose a plan for 2018 will be re-enrolled in the same or a similar plan. Consumers should take notice that this re-enrollment could result in higher out-of-pocket costs.
  • Consumers can now enroll in the Exchange through third-party insurers’ websites. The new direct enrollment option allows agents to handle the entire transaction. Consumers should compare plans before buying to understand all choices.
  • Consumers who qualify for a subsidy should shop on HealthCare.gov. Those who do not qualify for a subsidy should consider contacting a licensed insurance agent to review all available options.
  • There are two ways to purchase individual insurance, either through the federally run healthcare exchange (healthcare.gov) or via a licensed insurance agent. If you qualify for an individual subsidy, you must purchase your insurance through the Exchange to receive a subsidy.
  • A qualification calculator is available at www.healthcare.gov/lower-costs/qualifying-for-lower-costs/.
2018 North Dakota Individual Health Insurance Market
  Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota Sanford Health Plan Medica
Federal Health Exchange
(available at www.healthcare.gov)
Available statewide Sanford TRUE plan - Available in the following counties - Traill, Cass, Oliver, Burleigh and Morton No plans available
(available via a licensed insurance agent)
Available statewide Available statewide Available statewide


To help consumers choose the right coverage for themselves and their families, the Department recommends they:

  • Start early. With more information gathered, smarter decisions can be made.
  • Stay well-informed. The health insurance landscape is evolving rapidly. What is true today may be outdated tomorrow.
  • Shop around. What made sense this year may not be the best solution next year, particularly if an employment situation has changed. Take time to shop around and compare prices and plan benefits amongst different insurance companies.
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