The new health care marketplaces provide insurance plans for uninsured individuals and families

The Affordable Care Act will provide different levels of insurance coverage, but will assure individuals receive a core of 10 essential services.

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which the federal government enacted on March 23, 2010 and the Supreme Court upheld on June 28, 2012, provides options to Americans with no insurance for buying a health insurance plan. What does that mean for an individual who does not yet have health insurance coverage? Individuals will be required to have health care coverage starting in 2014 or face a health care tax. Consumers will be buying health care coverage through online marketplaces. But what type of plans will be available to purchase?

Each state will be offering four levels of coverage namely a bronze, silver, gold and platinum level. Plans will be defined in each level. All plans offered to individuals will include 10 core health benefits which include hospitalization, prescription drugs, mental health, rehabilitation care and preventive services. These types of services are typically seen in employer based plans according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Premiums will be based on an individual’s or family’s level of income. Until you fill out a Marketplace application, you can use the Kaiser Family Foundation calculator for a rough estimate of how much health insurance may cost you in 2014. You can visit the Kaiser Family Foundation website to use the health insurance costs and savings calculator. The tax credit is figured in when you register for a health plan. The amount of the tax credit is sent directly to the insurance company and applied to your premium costs. This lowers your actual out of pocket cost for the premium. During the year you receive a tax credit for your premiums, you must be careful not to go over the income limit or you will have to pay the tax credit back to the government.

The accessibility of comprehensive coverage will be an advantage to individuals and families who have preexisting conditions which in the past have disqualified them from various plans. In addition, it will make health care coverage more affordable for the average family or individual. The new system also allows the flexibility of deciding whether to be self-employed, retire early or change jobs without worrying about being dropped from a group plan and not qualifying for an individual plan. If an individual decides not to purchase a plan in 2014, they will pay a tax of $95 per uncovered adult, a tax of $46.50 per uncovered child, or up to 1 percent of their income, whichever is greater. In 2016 the tax will rise to $695 or 2.5 percent of their income.

For more information on the levels of insurance offered and available plans in your state go to www.HealthCare.gov. Michigan State University Extension is offering educational sessions on how to buy health insurance through the MSU Extension online program, Smart Choices.

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