9 Things you need to know about the new healthcare marketplace

Much has been written and said about Obamacare over the last couple years. Regardless of whether you think it is good legislation or bad, October 1 marked a milestone in the implementation of the new healthcare law.

The Obamacare legislation is being enacted through several phases. A big one is taking place right now through the implementation of the new healthcare marketplace. This marketplace will allow people to shop for health care insurance on a state by state basis. Here are 9 things you should know about the new healthcare marketplace.

What are the key dates to remember?

Starting October 1 the new healthcare marketplace is now open for enrollment. The new health care insurance coverage will start January 1. The enrollment period will remain open until March 31.

What if I already have coverage?

If you currently have coverage through your employer or if you have coverage through Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, CHIPS, or similar programs, you don’t have to do anything. By the same token if you currently have your own private personal health care policy you have the option of continuing this coverage or switching to one of the new policies if you so desire.

What if I don’t want to pay for coverage?

Not having healthcare coverage is no longer an option under the new law. You will be required to provide proof of insurance at tax time. Those with no healthcare coverage will have to pay a penalty for having no coverage. That penalty will gradually increase each year. You do not have to have coverage through one of the new Obamacare policies. As noted above you can have coverage provided from other sources, but you must have some coverage.

What if I can’t afford coverage?

Depending on your income and the size of your family, you may be eligible for subsidies to help pay for your coverage. Credits will be available for those between 100-400% of the federal poverty level. These subsidies will come in the form of a tax credit but the money will be sent directly to the insurance company so as to lower your monthly premium from the start.

What plans are available to me?

Available plans and costs will vary state by state. You can register at https://www.healthcare.gov/ to find what specific options are available to you based on where you live.

How are plans classified?

To try to help simplify the choices the plans have been broken down into four basic classifications: Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Platinum plans will provide the highest amount of coverage and the lowest deductibles. However they will be the most expensive. Gold plans will be a bit less expensive but deductibles will be a little higher and the coverage may be slightly less, and so forth. Bronze plans will be least expensive, but will also have the highest deductibles and may provide only the most basic coverage.

What plan do I choose?

Just as in selecting any insurance there are many factors to consider. How healthy are you? If you are young and in excellent health you may be better off choosing a bronze plan that will give you basic coverage at a lower cost. If you are in poor health or have an expensive medical condition it may be to your benefit to choose a Platinum or a Gold plan. Not all doctors will be covered in each plan as well, so if you do not wish to change doctors, you will need to make sure you choose a plan that includes your doctor. You also need to look at all the services provided by each plan to make sure it is appropriate for your needs.

Will I be covered?

One of the provisions of the new health care law is that insurance companies are no longer permitted to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. While this is good news for those who have been denied coverage in the past, it remains to be seen what effect this has on future health care rates.

Where can I find out more?

Obviously, programs as large in scope as the Affordable Care Act can be fairly complex, and there is far more to consider than I can address here in this space. I’ve tried to address some of the basic questions but for more information you can go to https://www.healthcare.gov/. They have a fairly extensive help section that answers a wide variety of questions. This also where you can go to investigate what plans are available to you and to enroll in coverage.

If you already have healthcare coverage then you may not need to worry about any of this. If, however, you are one of the 45 million Americans with no health insurance coverage then you need to investigate what coverage will be best for you and your family.

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