Affordable Health Care in 5 Minutes
For the next few days, it may be going a little overboard to say, “Affordable health care in five minutes,” due to a surge in activity at the website Healthcare.gov. No worries. Traffic will die down to manageable levels in the next few days, and you’ll be able to get in and out with healthcare coverage that bans restrictions on pre-existing conditions and offers federal subsidies to individuals or families, who are either at the poverty level or over by a certain percentage.
Currently, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides subsidies based on the following income criteria:
- $11,490 to $45,960 for individuals
- $15,510 to $62,040 for a family of 2
- $19,530 to $78,120 for a family of 3
- $23,550 to $94,200 for a family of 4
- $27,570 to $110,280 for a family of 5
- $31,590 to $126,360 for a family of 6
- $35,610 to $142,440 for a family of 7
- $39,630 to $158,520 for a family of 8
If you meet any of these criteria, you can expect significantly reduced rates on your monthly premium and can even qualify for help on deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. Here’s what you can expect when you sign up for ACA:
Minute One: Visit Healthcare.gov and Click “Apply Now”
The “Apply Now” link is a big green button in the center of your display screen. Once you click it, you’ll be whisked away to the Healthcare Marketplace, where you will select your state of residence. Doing so will tell you specifically where to go to get your insurance coverage — you’ll probably stay at Healthcare.gov unless your state is handling the exchange on its own, in which case, results will tell you where to go to sign up. This page will also let you know when coverage will start. (For most, it’s January 1, 2014.)
Minute Two: Create an Account
Here, you will provide basic information — name, address, etc. — and you will select a user name, password, and security questions for added details.
Minute Three: Enter Household Information
This portion is where you will feed the program the information it needs to make determinations about the plan(s) for which you will qualify. Have this information handy ahead of time, and the process will go much smoother:
- Social Security Numbers (or document numbers for legal immigrants)
- Employer and income information for every member of your household who needs coverage (for example, from pay stubs or W-2 forms—Wage and Tax Statements)
- Policy numbers for any current health insurance plans covering members of your household
- A completed Employer Coverage Tool (see page 2 of this checklist on the site) for every job-based plan you or someone in your household is eligible for. (You’ll need to fill out this form even for coverage you’re eligible for but don’t enroll in. Don’t worry. It’s a super-fast, one-page form where you enter employer information and check a few boxes.
Minute Four: Choose the Plan You Want
After entering your information, you’ll be greeted with a list of different coverage plans. If you meet one of the income criteria posted above, you’ll also know how many subsidies you’re eligible for, and what help (if any) you’ll get on deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses.
Minute Five: Enroll!
After you’ve found the plan that you want, simply make your selection, click Enroll, and you’re ready to go.
With some advanced preparation by using the checklist we have provided, you can zip through the process and have peace of mind when January 1, 2014, arrives.