Getting Health Insurance

What if you can’t afford insurance?

Shopping for health insurance can bring a few questions to light, especially when it comes to money. You’re not alone in wondering how to afford health insurance. As you check out your options, remember there are resources available for you and your family to help pay for your coverage.

Prices of Health Plans
You now have more choices when choosing health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Because of the health care law, many people who couldn’t afford health insurance before are able to pay for health insurance now. Based on your income, family size and the health plan you choose, you may qualify for federal financial assistance. This could reduce – or even eliminate – your monthly premium. When you enroll, you’ll have a variety of plans to choose from based on your budget and health care needs. You will be able to see what your health insurance plan will cost before you make a final decision to enroll.

One of the first questions you may ask when shopping for anything is, “How much will this cost?”  You can choose from  four levels of plans available during open enrollment: bronze, silver, gold and platinum, they differ in the monthly premiums, deductibles, other out-of-pocket costs and the percent of services your plan covers. This chart shows the differences among the plans.

Paying Less for Health Insurance
Before you throw your hands in the air and say, “I can’t afford health insurance,” you might want to do some shopping. There are lots of plans at different prices. And remember, you may be able to get financial assistance that will lower your monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs based on your income, family size and the health plan you choose.

There are two ways you may get help paying for coverage: a premium tax credit and cost-sharing assistance.

  • Tax Credits: The premium tax credit, also referred to as a subsidy,  helps eligible people pay for their premiums, or the monthly cost of coverage. If you’re eligible, the credit can be paid in advance directly to your insurance company to lower your premium each month. Check the chart below to see if your income qualifies you for a tax credit.

How to Afford Health Insurance

  • Cost-Sharing Assistance: If you qualify for a premium tax credit and your income is below $28,725, you might also be eligible for cost-sharing assistance. Most health insurance plans have out-of-pocket costs that you pay when you see a doctor, have a medical procedure, or get a test. Cost-sharing assistance helps lower these costs. Depending on how much money you make, your health insurance will pay a greater amount of health care costs, reducing what you pay out-of-pocket.

Penalties for Not Getting or Keeping Basic Health Insurance
The law requires most of us to get and keep basic health insurance.* If you don’t have health insurance this year you may be subject to a fine.

If you sign up for a plan, but don’t pay your insurance premium, you could lose coverage and might have to pay penalty fees.

*A few groups/individuals are exempt, such as certain religious groups, American Indians and people who are incarcerated or in financial hardship.

Signing Up for Health Insurance
Open enrollment for 2018 coverage begins Nov. 1, 2017, and ends Dec. 15, 2017. The deadline to sign up for a plan that begins on Jan. 1, 2018, is December 15. If you miss open enrollment, you will either have to wait for the next open enrollment period for coverage starting in 2019, or qualify for a special enrollment period.

Most recent update: 12/1/2017

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