The Big Questions
Do I really have to buy health insurance in 2014?
The Affordable Care Act's "individual mandate" requires all Americans, with a few exceptions, to have health insurance that typically offers "minimum essential coverage." Going without insurance could bring a tax penalty. For 2014, that penalty is 1 percent of your annual income or $95, whichever is higher, and $47.50 for each uninsured child, to a family cap of $285. The penalty increases to the greater of 2.5 percent of income or $695 per person by 2016. The penalty will show up as an additional tax or a reduction in your federal tax refund.
How does the Obama health insurance law affect you?
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is bringing sweeping change to America's health care system.
Find out what it means for you by answering a few questions.
First, do you currently have health insurance?
You're among the roughly 85 percent of Americans covered by health insurance, according to Census data.
How does Obamacare impact you? It depends. Is your insurance through:
Like about 1 in 10 Americans, you buy your own health insurance.
It's possible your current plan
will have to be replaced
with one that meets new Obamacare standards. But even if you can keep your current coverage, you may want to shop around for a new plan in your state's
health insurance marketplace, or exchange.
You're likely to find new options you didn't have before. And, depending on your income, you may qualify for a federal subsidy to help with premiums.
If you're uninsured, you're far from alone. The Census says 15 percent of the population has no health coverage.
But starting next year, if you don't have health insurance you could face a financial penalty. You might avoid the penalty by shopping for a health plan on your state's health insurance marketplace, or exchange.
You will find
a range of coverage levels
and might quality for a subsidy to help pay premiums. You might even be eligible for Medicaid, if that program is
being expanded in your state.
If you work, your employer may have to start providing health insurance, though that
employer mandate has been delayed. The new benefits
may be meager.
How do I qualify for an Obamacare subsidy to cut health insurance costs?
Beginning in 2014, if you earn between $11,500 and $46,000 per year for a single person or $23,550 and $94,200 for a family of four and do not have affordable employer-sponsored coverage, you could receive an "advance premium tax credit" to help with the cost of insurance purchased through your state's exchange, or marketplace. A premium discount is deducted from your federal income tax, and you decide how much to put toward your insurance payment each month. You also may qualify for help with out-of-pocket health care costs, if you earn less than $28,725 as a single person or $58,875 for a family of four.
What is health insurance?
What is the Affordable Care Act, and why did we need it?
Why do I need health insurance?
I can't afford to buy health insurance. What should I do?
More questions and answers »
Sources: U.S. Census, Congressional Budget Office, U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Associated Press.
Even as major elements of the historic Affordable Care Act take effect, polls show that many Americans still don't understand the basics of health insurance reform or the impact it will have on their lives.
But a Bankrate survey found that a slight majority have become more curious about the law. As people learn more, the picture is slowly becoming clearer as to how President Barack Obama's ambitious, intricately layered health care overhaul will affect the nation. Some of the impacts have seemed a bit surprising, even unfortunate.
"No single law can solve all problems," says Linda Blumberg, a health economist and senior fellow at the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank. "We have to take things one step at a time and know that this is going to be a continuing process of trying to reform a system that has flaws, with markets that aren't now and never have been competitive, and evolve to (a) more efficient provision of high-quality care." Read more
If you already have health insurance through your job, you're probably wondering whether Obamacare will give you some new options. Will you be able to comparison-shop for a plan on the new online exchanges that might be better than your employer health insurance? The answer is a big, resounding "maybe."
Like almost everything else having to do with health care reform, there are plenty of nuances and caveats. Trying to decipher them and choose the best health insurance plan for your situation "makes homeowners insurance seem really simple," says Brian Haile, senior vice president for health policy at the tax services company Jackson Hewitt.
Exchanges will be open to all, but ...
The exchanges are online health insurance marketplaces set up under the Affordable Care Act. In 34 states, the marketplaces operate through the federal government's HealthCare.gov website, while 16 states and the District of Columbia are running their own exchanges. Read more
Would you fork over your bank account number to a caller who claims to be a federal employee peddling a new mandatory national care health card? Or buy a health plan through a sketchy online health insurance exchange months before the real ones open? Or fall for "death panel" insurance?
There's an army of con artists and opportunists out there hoping to convert your confusion over President Barack Obama's landmark health care reform law, casually known as Obamacare, into ready cash by any means possible.
"Confusion is a con artist's best friend," says Jim Quiggle, spokesman for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, an alliance of consumer groups, insurers and government agencies. "Obamacare scams appear to be a spreading problem in many states around the country." Read more
Health Insurance Pulse Survey
Bankrate’s monthly Health Insurance Pulse survey is tracking how people feel about health care and health coverage in the age of Obamacare. Read more about the latest survey »
Editor's note: Percentages may not equal 100, due to rounding.
Health Insurance Exchanges
If you need to buy a health plan to satisfy Obamacare's requirement that virtually every American must have insurance, you'll want to check out the new health insurance exchange in your state. The state exchanges, or marketplaces, allow you to compare plans and find out if you qualify for a government subsidy to help with the cost. Most exchanges will operate from the federal government's HealthCare.gov website, although 14 states and the District of Columbia are running marketplaces of their own.
State exchanges operated through federal HealthCare.gov site.
States operating their own exchanges on other sites.