The Affordable Care Act will likely face several hurdles in 2015, not least among them a full-fledged assault from Republicans, whose victory over both chambers of Congress last year was followed by pledges to repeal U.S. President Barack Obama’s signature legislation. That’s not to mention many Americans’ unwavering animosity toward the law.
Despite such setbacks, Obamacare is here to stay, at least for now, and the deadline to enroll is fast approaching. Online exchanges are up and running and have seen an estimated 8 million Americans sign up for coverage since 2013. States either run their own marketplaces or have defaulted to the federal healthcare.gov. Using a marketplace is the only way to take advantage of cost assistance like reduced premiums and tax credits.
Getting health insurance through a marketplace in 2015 is just like last year, but many marketplaces are offering new plans. Here’s a quick guide to getting health care in the New Year, including deadlines, cost and where to sign up.
If you get health insurance through your employer, the government considers you covered. Unless otherwise notified by your company, job-based coverage shouldn’t change. Those who get health insurance through work also meet the law’s requirement for minimum coverage to avoid being penalized in 2015.
Forgoing employer-based coverage and switching to a marketplace plan is always an option, however your income and household size will determine which plans are available to you. People who aren't insured through an employer will have to sign up through one of the online marketplaces.
The deadline for enrolling in health care coverage is Feb. 15. Open enrollment in all marketplaces started Nov. 15, 2014 and will run for three months. If you enrolled in a marketplace plan in 2014, your coverage ended Dec. 31, 2014, and you’ll have to re-enroll in a plan for this year. You’ll have until Feb. 15 to either renew your current health care plan or choose a new plan through the exchange.
Enrolling in a plan before Jan. 15 means coverage can begin as soon as Feb. 1. Signing up between Jan. 15 and Feb. 15 will begin coverage as soon as March 1.
Getting insurance through a state versus federal marketplace. Nineteen states opted to run their own health care exchanges as required under Obamacare. Those who don’t live in a state with its own health care exchange can sign up for coverage directly through healthcare.gov. To find out which states have health care marketplaces and where to find them, click here.
How much will Obamacare cost? For most Americans, health care under the Affordable Care Act will cost between 2 percent and 9.5 percent of total income, after cost assistance. Lower- and middle-income Americans who find health care coverage through one of the marketplaces will often qualify for lower monthly premiums.
The average monthly premium cost for people who signed up through a marketplace during Obamacare’s first enrollment period and were eligible for assistance was $82. Check out the Kaiser Family Foundation’s premium calculator for an idea of what insurance will cost you. In general, the lower your premium, the higher your out-of-pocket costs for things like prescriptions and hospital stays.
Need help signing up for Obamacare? You can always go directly to the provider listed on a marketplace. Marketplaces also offer 24/7 assistance during open enrollment.