The Patient Protection Affordable Care Act, a.k.a., the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a, Obamacare, has changed the landscape for how consumers 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 shop for a health insurance plan is to search on a website that offers a wide selection of plan options. Shoppers 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 healthcare plans 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
- 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, you must contact your state based health insurance exchange to enroll in coverage, either online or with the help of a state navigator.
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 on the federal marketplace.
It’s important to point out that not all health insurance carriers or healthcare plans are available on the state exchanges or the federal marketplace. Health insurance companies are not required to offer health insurance on the exchange. And not all healthcare plans are made available on the exchanges.
If you qualify for a tax subsidy on your health insurance to obtain affordable health care, you must buy a healthcare plan through an exchange. However, if you do not qualify for a health insurance subsidy, you can purchase health insurance in the private marketplace, which can also be referred to as “off-exchange” (marketplace plans are “on-exchange”). The private marketplace offers health insurance carriers that chose not to file on the exchanges, as well as nearly all other healthcare plans that health insurance companies sell.
Health Insurance is Required
If you decide not to enroll in a health insurance plan, you are subject to a penalty for not complying with the Affordable Care Act. The fine for not purchasing an Obamacare plan. in 2016 is $695 per adult, $347.50 per child or 2.5% of your income.
If you receive health insurance benefits through your employer, or your spouse’s employer, you are not required to do anything else. Just make sure you update your coverage during the company’s open enrollment period if you need to make adjustments to your coverage.
Some employers are starting to move their employees to exchange-based plans, so if your employer announces this change for the 2017 enrollment session, it would be smart to get online early and begin researching the options available to you on the healthcare exchange. If you are allowed to buy from any given website for health insurance, start your search at HealthCare.com so you can see all of the health insurance plans available in your state.
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.