What is the Affordable Care Act? 10 things you should know

Get Covered America buttons are seen during a training session in Chicago, Illinois September 7, 2013 before volunteers canvas a Chicago neighborhood to talk with residents about the Affordable Care Act - also known as Obamacare. Credit: Reuters
Get Covered America buttons are seen during a training session in Chicago on Sept. 17 before volunteers canvas a Chicago neighborhood to talk with residents about the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare.
Credit: Reuters

Over 60 percent of Americans have admitted they are not sure what is in the new Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, according to Theda Skocpol, professor at Harvard University and author of “Health Care Reform and American Politics.” The exchange marketplace is up and running; find out what Obamacare means for you. Metro asked Skocpol to answer 10 questions you may have about Obamacare.

1. Who is eligible for Obamacare? People who do not receive insurance from their employers are eligible for Obamacare. People under 26 can stay on their parents’ insurance.

2. Where can I sign up for a plan? You can browse and purchase plans on your state’s exchange marketplace online: Visit HealthCare.gov to find your state’s site. People will be able to read about the various benefits and costs of each plan and “comparison shop the same way they would if they were comparing the price of airline tickets,” said Skocpol. Depending on the state, some sites will also allow users to enter their income and immediately sign up for financial assistance.

3. How much will the plans cost? The costs vary from state to state, but many people will receive financial aid that offsets the cost. “The tax credits you can get from the government run pretty high,” said Skocpol. “People making $70,000-$80,000 will get help from Obamacare.” In the end, most people will pay much less for their insurance than they were before for private insurance plans.

4. What are the different options for an insurance plan? There are four tiers of plans: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Bronze plans are the cheapest and offer basic coverage with higher deductibles and copays. Platinum offers more coverage, but at a higher price.

5. If bronze is the cheapest, why wouldn’t everyone get it? Skocpol said purchasing the bronze plan may not be the cheapest choice in the end. It could end up costing more than the other plans, depending on the frequency of your visits to doctors and hospitals. Some people on the bronze plan may hesitate to see a doctor because of the higher deductibles: Skocpol and her colleagues call this the “bronze trap.” Even so, Skocpol said people who choose the bronze plan will be “protected from the things that drive people into bankruptcy.”

6. Is there a chance I’ll pay more for health care? Skocpol said in a few instances, some families who have very inexpensive catastrophic health insurance that only covers emergencies may have to pay more for insurance. However, their coverage will also be much greater with the new plans.

7. How long do I have to choose a plan? Six months. You can sign up for a plan now and get coverage in the new year, but you have until the end of March to sign up for a plan. Skocpol said in the future, the enrollment period will only be two to three months.

8. What if I don’t have insurance and I want to opt out of Obamacare? You can choose to remain uninsured, but you will have to pay a fine of $95 per adult or 1 percent of your family income — whichever is higher.

9. What if I have a pre-existing condition? You will still be eligible for health care. The ACA prohibits insurance companies, on and off the exchange, from barring or discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions.

10. Are illegal immigrants eligible for Obamacare? No. Only legal residents and citizens are eligible for Obamacare.

Follow Andrea Park on Twitter: @andreapark


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