Apply for Health Insurance Before March 31

Meghana Giridhar - March 06, 2014 03:16 PM

In 2010, President Barack Obama signed a federal statute called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) or Affordable Care Act (ACA). The law which focuses on making health insurance available to all without compromising on the quality is as significant as the Medicare and Medicaid bills passed in 1965.

The ACA includes mandates, subsidies and insurance exchanges to expand public and private insurance coverage and reduce the costs of deficits and Medicare spending. Insurance companies have to cover all applicants within new minimum standards and offer the same rates irrespective of pre-existing conditions or sex.

There are several health plan options within the ACA. The bronze level is basic, silver midrange, while gold and platinum are the higher-end plans. There is also  a catastrophic insurance plan available to individuals under age 30 that covers three doctor visits per year at no cost and preventive care such as screenings and vaccines. All plans offer the same coverage benefits and free preventive care. The difference is in the cost, with some plans carrying higher deductibles and others with higher co-pays. Costs vary based on location.

March 31st, 2014 is the deadline for this year’s Open Enrollment. All those with no health insurance need to act now to avail of health insurance coverage for this year. Once the deadline passes, consumers will have to wait until October for the next open enrollment.

Insurance can be purchased after the deadline but there will be no premium discounts also known as subsidies. In addition, there is a penalty on the 2014 tax return for those who miss the date and are without health care plans. The fine will be $95 per adult and $47.50 per child or 1% of your household income, whichever is greater. In 2015, that will increase to $325 per adult or 2% of income.

To sign up for the program, visit the government link at www.healthcare.gov for all the information. Click on the “get insurance” tab to get to the page that takes you through the marketplace appropriate for you. Insurance plans can be compared along with the eligibility criteria for Medicaid. Enrollment is also possible by mail.

Call centers have been established to provide assistance with regards to open enrollment. 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325) is the number to call with information being made available in more than 150 languages. There are also ‘navigators’ or specially trained advisers in communities to provide personalized help as also federally authorized marketplace-designated organizations.

Go to Localhelp.healthcare.gov to find a navigator. All you need to do is provide your zip code to get information on the closest location, the phone number, the address, the e-mail address, the website address, the office hours, and details on how they can help.

Depending on state law, traditional agents and insurance brokers can also provide assistance on choosing a suitable plan. However, they will charge fees whereas the consultation with navigators and marketplace-designated organizations is free.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, about 4 million Americans have enrolled in health insurance plans through the federal and state exchanges since Oct. 1st, 2013. March 31st is just a few weeks away so it’s time to act quickly and get the healthcare plan that will best protect you and your family.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patient_Protection_and_Affordable_Care_Act

http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2014/02/28/what-to-know-about-the-march-31-health-insurance-deadline

https://www.healthcare.gov/what-key-dates-do-i-need-to-know/

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/29/health/obamacare-open-enrollment-101/

Click here to listen to our Caregiver and Physician Coversations’ Show on Frequently Asked Questions about the Affordable Care Act.

Meghana Giridhar serves as Content Coordinator and is part of eCareDiary's founding team.  In her role, she oversees and edits content across all of eCareDiary's media platforms.

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