The Big Questions
Why do I need health insurance?
It's no secret that health care is expensive today. The government says the cost to treat a broken leg can run $7,500 and an average three-day hospital stay can set you back $30,000. Without insurance, many Americans would be one health setback away from financial ruin. Regularly paying a set premium for health coverage assures that money will be available to defray the cost of everything from routine checkups to catastrophic medical bills.
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.
What's the difference between a deductible, a copayment and coinsurance?
All three are medical charges you must pay out of your own pocket, even if you have insurance. Your deductible is the initial amount you must pay each year for covered health services before your insurer will start to chip in. Plans may have separate individual and family deductibles and/or deductibles for separate services such as hospitalization. A copayment is a fixed amount you pay toward each medical service, such as $25 for a checkup. Coinsurance is a fixed percentage, rather than a flat amount, that you pay toward each service.
What is health insurance?
What is the Affordable Care Act, and why did we need it?
Do I really have to buy health insurance in 2014?
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.
The long-awaited affordability features of the Affordable Care Act are finally ready for prime time in 2014, along with the Obamacare requirement that virtually all Americans must have health insurance or face a penalty.
Major provisions of President Barack Obama's health reform law, from its subsidies for lower-income applicants to its expansion of Medicaid, finally take center stage.
"Many Americans will start to learn what tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies they're eligible for and the vast benefits of the law," predicts Dania Palanker, senior counsel for the National Women's Law Center in Washington, D.C. "Not only will they have insurance, they'll have insurance they can afford to use." Read more
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
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.