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A non-government resource,
powered by health insurance experts.

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Obamacare Guides

Finding and enrolling in an Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) plan is easy once you know the basics.

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Most Popular Questions About Obamacare

Q: What Is the Difference Between Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act?

There is no difference between the Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act. They both refer to the exact same thing. It’s a very common mistake to think that they’re different.

Obamacare is the unofficial nickname for the 900-page Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It’s also referred to as the Affordable Care Act, and abbreviated as the ACA or PPACA.

Adding to the confusion, pundits and the public alike use the term “Obamacare” to explain a myriad of loosely related healthcare issues that may or may not have anything to do with the law. Sometimes Obamacare is used to describe modern health insurance. Sometimes people use it to refer to individual plans, government-run insurance marketplaces, or specific health insurance reforms – like the ban on insurance companies rejecting people with pre-existing health conditions – that are found in the Affordable Care Act. Even changes to the Food and Drug Administration that were a part of the ACA can be called Obamacare. In reality, many aspects of healthcare in the US are mentioned in the Affordable Care Act.

The ACA is known as Obamacare because the law was associated with the President at the time it was signed. While the ACA was passed in 2010, most of the law didn’t come into effect until 2014.

Taking the Next Steps

Whether you’re looking for on-Marketplace or off-Marketplace health insurance, it helps to know that regardless of your choice, both kinds of plans are required to fulfill essential health benefits per the Affordable Care Act. Search our database of individual health insurance plans to find the right plan for you.

Q: Can I Buy Health Insurance That Is Not Obamacare?

Yes, it’s possible to buy health insurance that is not Obamacare, although there are significant drawbacks to doing so.

First, it’s important to understand that Obamacare is just another name for the Affordable Care Act. Obamacare sets the rules for health plans bought by individuals under the age of 65. When you buy health insurance on your own – and not through an employer – then you’re probably getting Obamacare. If your plan has Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum in its name, then it’s Obamacare.

That said, there are many options for health insurance that’s not Obamacare. These Obamacare alternatives generally have very large doctor networks.

  • Christian health ministries, or faith-based healthcare, are religious charities that share the cost of healthcare among their members. Premiums can be as low as $100 per month. These plans have very specific rules about what they do and don’t cover. Around 1 million people are enrolled in faith-based plans. You won’t have to pay a tax penalty if you rely on this coverage.
  • Short-term health insurance lasts for up to 364 days at a time, with premiums as low as $50 per month. It won’t cover everything and will require you to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket before it shares the cost of your care. Short term plans are designed to affordably protect you in an emergency. They don’t cover pre-existing conditions or long-term health issues. Short term plans are popular with travelers, students, and those waiting for comprehensive coverage to begin. Around 160,000 plans are sold each year. You no longer have to pay a federal tax penalty if you rely on short term insurance, but it’s not available in all states.
  • Fixed-indemnity, or critical illness plans, give you predetermined amounts of money if you’re diagnosed with a certain disease (like cancer) or get into a specific accident (like losing a limb). You will not have to pay a federal tax penalty if you use fixed indemnity to replace Obamacare coverage.
  • Paying for care on your own is always an option, although it’s not a very affordable one.

You can also buy separate coverage for specific needs, like dental or vision insurance, from a number of insurers. Obamacare plans aren’t required to include dental and vision care.

If you have minimal income, you can apply for Medicaid, which is low-cost government insurance. There are different requirements to receive Medicaid in each state, and it must be renewed at least once per year.

Obamacare means your major medical health insurance must have certain coverage rules and consumer protections. On one hand, Obamacare plans won’t reject you for a pre-existing condition. Plus, you won’t be subject to a penalty under the individual mandate imposed by the Affordable Care Act. On the other hand, Obamacare insurance will charge you for 10 essential health benefits, even those that you don’t want.

Taking the Next Steps

Whether you’re considering on-Marketplace health insurance or something off-Marketplace, it’s good to take some time and research your options. Search our database of health insurance plans to find the right plan for each of you.

Q: Can I Get Health Insurance with Pre-Existing Conditions?

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, you’re able to get health insurance even if you deal with pre-existing conditions. This applies whether or not you get health insurance by yourself or through your employer. Whether or not you sought treatment for the health issue before your coverage began, it will still be covered.

What’s a Pre-Existing Condition?

A pre-existing condition is a health issue that was present before a person enrolled in a health insurance plan. Pre-existing conditions are not uncommon. Anywhere from 27 percent of Americans (according to the AARP) to 50 percent of Americans (according to the Department of Health and Human Services) under the age of 65 have a medical issue that insurance companies would have categorized as a pre-existing condition. CNN believes that the most common pre-existing conditions were acne, anxiety, diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea, depression, COPD, obesity, atherosclerosis, and cancer.

Exceptions to Health Insurance Pre-Existing Conditions

Not all plans are regulated by the Affordable Care Act, which prevents discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. Limited medical, short-term medical, travel insurance, and supplemental coverage plans may have waiting periods for pre-existing conditions. There are a handful of exceptions to pre-existing condition protections for individuals:

  • Health insurance plans that serve as alternatives to the Affordable Care Act, such as short-term medical policies or Christian health plans, continue to set their own rules for pre-existing condition coverage. You probably won’t encounter this issue unless you specifically seek out these types of insurance.
  • If you enroll in a Medicare Supplement policy (also known as Medigap), then your supplementary coverage for conditions that were previously diagnosed or treated may be postponed for up to 6 months if you were uninsured before enrolling. However, your Original Medicare will still cover pre-existing conditions.

Taking the Next Steps

If you’re looking for a traditional, year-long health plan, you can apply for the health insurance policy without fear of rejection. If you believe you have a pre-existing condition, you can also apply for alternative coverage such as temporary health insurance without penalty.

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