The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, has officially opened for enrollment. Coverage will begin in January 2014, and open enrollment will continue until March 31st.
Even though Obamacare has been a buzzword for most of the Obama administration, there are still many people in the dark about what exactly Obamacare is — and what it means to their personal insurance needs.
While I’m by no means an expert in the policy, here are a few facts that may help you decide whether you need to enroll in this historic government-provided insurance makeover.
Reasons You May Not Need Obamacare:
- You’re already sufficiently insured by your employer
- You’re already enrolled in Medicaid, Medicare, or another government-funded insurance program
- You’re a member of a religious organization that rejects health insurance as a part of their core beliefs
The main objective of Obamacare, whether you agree with it or not, is to provide health insurance for the 57 million Americans who are currently uninsured. If you’re employed, chances are you’re already enrolled in your employer’s insurance program. If you’re happy with your coverage, there’s no need to do anything, and you won’t be penalized for not enrolling.
Medicaid, Medicare, and other government programs that require specific qualifications are already designed to provide affordable healthcare to lower income individuals, elderly, veterans, etc.
And, as some are exempt from certain taxes due to their religious beliefs, those who reject Obamacare as part of their rejection of all insurance won’t be penalized.
Reasons You Should Enroll in Obamacare:
- Your current insurance is too expensive
- You’re uninsured and want affordable healthcare
- You have a pre-existing condition that makes it difficult to find coverage
- You don’t want to be penalized
While you may currently have insurance coverage through your employer, it’s recommended that you switch to Obamacare if the cost to cover one individual through your employer’s plan is more than 9.5% of your income. This is because comparable coverage through most state exchanges would most likely be less than that, and you could also qualify for subsidies.
If you’re uninsured either because your employer doesn’t offer insurance, or because you’ve opted out due to high cost, Obamacare is a good option. There are four levels of coverage: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. Each level has a higher premium and corresponding higher coverage percentage.
While the rates are based on where you live, your age, your health, and what subsidies (government tax credits) you qualify for, coverage is significantly more affordable than many traditional healthcare plans.
The subsidies offered are one of the main reasons Obamacare is cheaper than other plans. Although they’re essentially tax credits on income you’re spending on healthcare, participants have the option to apply the subsidies to their monthly premiums instead of receiving it in one lump sum.
In the past, many insurance companies haven’t provided coverage for what are deemed “pre-existing conditions.” While there are legitimate reasons that insurers have these policies, it makes getting affordable coverage nearly impossible for people in these categories. Under Obamacare, insurance providers that are in the state exchanges will be required to provide equal coverage and standard premiums for those with pre-existing conditions.
The last point is perhaps one of the most important. If you’re not insured and choose not to enroll in Obamacare, you’ll be penalized when you file your taxes. While the per-person penalty for 2014 is relatively low (1% of your income, plus a fee per uninsured child), fees are slated to rise to 2.5% of your income by 2016. Ouch! This is one of the main points protested by those who oppose Obamacare.
But whether or not you support it, it’s the law starting in January 2014. Even if you’re not crazy about Obamacare, you’ll be paying for it either way. Why not be paying for insurance instead of throwing money away?
Are you going to enroll in Obamacare?