Although the Obama Health Care Law was enacted in 2010, the provisions that will affect consumers the most won’t debut until January 2014. One of the most significant changes to occur in 2014 is the health insurance mandate, which requires all people in the United States to be covered by an acceptable form of health insurance or pay a fine.
Obama Care Basics
Under the new health care law, anyone who isn’t covered by Medicaid must either obtain another type of health insurance coverage or pay a tax penalty. Other forms of health insurance that are acceptable under Obama Care include employer-sponsored plans, individual insurance plans, veterans’ insurance and Medicare.
Surviving the Law
If you already have health insurance through an employer or an individual insurance plan, you must make sure that the policy meets the specifications of the Obama Health Care Law. Plans that were purchased before March 23, 2010 may be “grandfathered,” which means that they are exempt from many of the standards imposed by Obama Care. However, if you or your employer purchased your policy after this date, it must cover all of the following expenses in order to qualify as an acceptable plan under the new health care law:
Substance abuse and mental health treatment
Maternity and newborn care
If you don’t have an insurance plan and you aren’t covered by Medicare or veterans’ health insurance, you must find alternative coverage to avoid paying a penalty. If your income is less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level for your family size, you may qualify for Medicaid, which would cover all of your healthcare expenses at no cost to you. Otherwise, you must purchase a private health insurance plan or opt into an employer-sponsored plan.
Finding the Right Plan
Like most existing plans, any new plan you purchase or opt into must meet the Obama Health Care Law’s minimum standards for quality. As of October 2013, you will be able to shop for acceptable plans easily using the Health Insurance Marketplace, which is a system that allows you to compare all of the health insurance options available to you after filling out one application. On the Health Insurance Marketplace, you will be able to see which private insurance plans you qualify to purchase, as well as whether you qualify for coverage under your state’s Medicaid program.
Low Income Assistance
If your income is too high for Medicaid, but too low to afford a Marketplace health insurance plan at full price, you may qualify for a discounted premium. Under Obama Care, if your household income is below a certain level, you will receive an Advanced Premium Tax Credit to help cover the cost of your health insurance. You can apply some or all of this credit directly to your health insurance premiums, and the remainder of the credit will reduce your income taxes for the year. To find out whether you qualify for an Advanced Premium Tax Credit, complete a Health Insurance Marketplace application after October 1, 2013.
Some people will be exempt from the Obama Health Care Law’s penalties even if they don’t have insurance coverage. You may qualify for an exemption if you are not required to file a tax return because of low income or are uninsured for less than 3 months during the tax year.
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