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How Does Obamacare Affect Me?

The Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") makes health insurance required for Americans, but also ensures that certain benefits are provided.

September 5, 2017 - By Colleen McGuire - read

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – most commonly known as the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” – has changed the landscape for how Americans shop, buy and use their health insurance plans.

For the first time in the history of the health insurance industry, consumers are expected to shop for healthcare like they would for an airline ticket. Paper applications are still available, but can be more difficult to get.

The easiest way to enroll in a health insurance plan is to search on a website that offers a wide selection of plan options. Visitors are completely in control of their healthcare purchase, and can search, filter, run multiple quotes and buy all in one day. But the process can be laborious and confusing, leaving many to make hasty decisions or forego buying health insurance altogether. So, here are some facts about health insurance that will give you a better understanding of how Obamacare affects you.

Benefits of Obamacare Healthcare Insurance

Obamacare plans offer many benefits for healthcare consumers, but some of the highlights include:

  • There are 10 essential health benefits all Obamacare healthcare plans must offer;
  • Preventive services are cost-free;
  • Individuals with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied health insurance coverage, and, they cannot be discriminated against with higher rates;
  • Subsidies are available to help lower the cost of health insurance if the individual qualifies for financial assistance based on annual income; and
  • Children can stay on their parent’s healthcare plan until age 26.

Where to Buy Health Insurance

If you live in California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont or Washington, your state exercises more control over its health insurance market than the federal government, and you may have additional chances to enroll.

If you live in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming, you can enroll in a health insurance plan but only during a short window each year.

Health insurance companies are not required to offer health insurance on all websites, but they cannot pick and choose who to insure based on pre-existing conditions.

If you qualify for a tax subsidy on your health insurance to obtain affordable health care, you must buy a health plan with “metal levels” (like silver or gold in the name). However, if you do not qualify for a health insurance subsidy, you can purchase “off-exchange” health insurance which has a slightly lower sticker price. Private websites can connect you with health insurance plans that are subsidy-eligible or not.

Health Insurance Is An Option, But Not A Requirement

At first, the fine for not purchasing an Obamacare plan was $695 per adult, $347.50 per child or 2.5 percent of your income. As of 2019, the fine is gone (in all but 4 states), but the plans are still here.

You can now choose a major medical plan that covers all pre-existing conditions, or you can opt out for something like short-term insurance or an association health plan without penalty.

Employer-Based Health Insurance Is Usually Obamacare: If you receive health insurance benefits through your employer, or your spouse’s employer, you probably don’t need to do anything else. These plans are typically the same as Affordable Care Act plans, except they’re not offered to individuals. Companies buy them and then offer them to a group of employees. Simply make sure you update your coverage whenever you need to make adjustments.

Leaving Employer-Based Health Insurance: Sometimes, employers drop health insurance for being complicated or expensive. They’ll encourage you to get health insurance from a private website like HealthCare.com. If your employer announces this change for the 2017 enrollment session, it would be smart to get online and begin researching the options available to you.

No matter what your political beliefs are about Obamacare, the healthcare law is an active part of our lives, and not participating does carry consequences. Knowing what it means for helping your healthcare needs is a great first step for understanding how Obamacare can benefit you and your family.

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