Despite Republican attempts to end the Affordable Care Act and ongoing Trump administration efforts to weaken it, the ACA remains an important source of health insurance for many Americans. Last year, more than 12 million Americans were covered through the ACA.
If you currently don’t have health insurance, now is the time to sign up. The deadline for sign ups, for plans offered through the ACA exchange or for other plans, is Dec. 15. The individual mandate, which required Americans to have health insurance or to pay a penalty, was repealed late last year. However, health insurance remains an important investment to ensure your access to comprehensive health care ranging from preventative care to catastrophic coverage for unexpected major illnesses or injury.
The Affordable Care Act created what’s called the Health Insurance Marketplace, or exchange, for Americans who don’t get health insurance through an employer or government program. This is where you go to compare coverage plans, find out if you qualify for financial assistance and sign up for a plan. In Maine, the marketplace is HealthCare.gov.
You don’t need to worry about signing up if you’re already covered, such as through an employer, Medicare or Medicaid, but eligibility requirements to get benefits are pretty broad. You have to live in the U.S. and be a citizen (or lawfully present), and you can’t be incarcerated.
What you’ll pay for health care each month — your premium — will depend on many different things, but big factors include age, where you live, whether you smoke and your income.
To see if your income is in the range to save money on a plan, and how much you may save, visit www.healthcare.gov/lower-costs. About 85 percent of the roughly 80,000 Maine residents insured under Obamacare in 2017 qualified for subsidies based on their income.
You can browse all available plans and their estimated prices at: www.healthcare.gov/see-plans.
And start an application at: www.healthcare.gov/get-coverage.
There are people specially trained to help you understand your options and sign up: navigators and health insurance agents or brokers. You can find who is nearest to you by visiting https://localhelp.healthcare.gov.
There are a couple key things to remember when shopping for a plan. For instance, if you know you’ll require more health care, it might be worth it to pay slightly higher premiums but a lower deductible (which is what you have to pay for health care services before your insurance plan kicks in).
The Affordable Care Act has been, and continues to be, a political lightning rod, but don’t let the politics distract you from protecting your health and making sure you have coverage.
There is clear evidence that having health insurance increases access to primary care, preventive care, treatment for chronic illnesses, medications and surgery, and ultimately helps people be more financially secure and live longer lives. So don’t forget to sign up by Dec. 15.