Health insurance can be expensive in the US, especially if your company doesn’t offer it. If you’re shopping for options during enrollment, looking at health plans through the Affordable Care Act is a good place to start.
Signed into law by former President Barack Obama in 2010, the Affordable Care Act was designed to give more Americans access to affordable health insurance. The law also expands the Medicaid program and supports new ways to provide health care – such as ACA Health Homes – which aims to reduce the cost of medical care. More than 35 million Americans are enrolled in the Affordable Care Act related issues, President Joe Biden announced on Aug.
We’ll tell you when open enrollment begins for health plans under the Affordable Care Act and how to sign up HealthCare.gov. To read more, here is the best time to do it .
What health insurance plans are available under the Affordable Care Act?
The state you live in determines which healthcare providers you can use, assuming you qualify for the Affordable Care Act (see below). For each plan, you should see Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum options. Here is a breakdown of how each system works.
Bronze: You’ll pay a lower monthly premium, but you’ll pay more when it comes to paying for care. The Bronze deductible plan is usually longer than other options, so you pay more out of pocket until your deductible is met.
Silver: Middle school tuition comes with a monthly fee. It will cost you more than the Bronze plan, but your medical expenses will be lower if you go with the Bronze plan.
Gold: The plan includes monthly premiums, and lower costs when you need medical care. The lower cost means that your out-of-pocket medical expenses will be significantly lower than the Bronze and Silver plans.
Platinum: The highest monthly rate gives you the lowest cost of medical care. Since the deductible is so low, your plan will start paying your medical expenses sooner than any other option.
Deciding which plan to choose depends on your lifestyle, how often you will need health care and the type of health care you want. For example, if you are in good health and expect to only need to use your insurance in the event of an emergency, you can choose a Bronze or Silver plan. If you are currently receiving treatment or expect to need regular treatment, the Gold and Platinum options may be best for you.
Note that your premiums are based on your income, so if you have less money, your premiums may be lower.
How to find out if you qualify for the Affordable Care Act
Before you start thinking about which plan to choose, you need to know if you qualify for the Affordable Care Act. Go to healthcare.gov/screener/ and enter your zip code. Depending on where you live, you may be redirected to a different website.
You will then answer a few questions to see if you qualify for a discount or to be paid the full price. Once you’ve found the answer, your next step is to complete an application with the Health Insurance Marketplace or your state’s marketplace to view plans and rates.
When can you sign up for a health plan from the Affordable Care Act?
Open enrollment begins Nov. 1 and continues until January 15. Outside of those days, you may be eligible special registration. Here’s how you can qualify:
Did you have something that changed your life in the last 60 days: These events include loss of health, changes in household income, having a child, getting married, getting divorced, moving to a new ZIP code or if someone on your Marketplace plan dies.
Note that if you have moved to a new ZIP code, you must show proof that you were insured for at least 60 days in the past 60 days, or that you are not receiving coverage in the next 60 days. Also, if your job is terminated and you choose not to accept COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act), you can still enroll in a Marketplace plan.
If you are applying for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): If you are applying for one of these programs, you can apply for health insurance through the Marketplace at any time.
Other life experiences that may qualify you:
- You’re getting out of jail
- You are just a US citizen
- You are starting or retiring AmeriCorps
- You are a member of a federally recognized tribe or a shareholder in an Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) Corporation
To see if you qualify for special enrollment, follow the steps above healthcare.gov/screener/. If you qualify, your health plan will start the first month after you enroll. For example, if you sign up in August, your coverage will start on Sept. 1.
How to sign up for an Affordable Care Act health plan
When you’re ready to write — whether it’s mid-Nov. 1 and Jan. 15 or through special — you need create an account at HealthCare.gov or through your government agent. You will then complete the process to view the plans and prices and choose the option that is best for you.
Things you may need you are applying for:
- to everyone on your program
- Employer information and income for everyone in your household
- Current health insurance numbers (if available)
- Information about health insurance available from your employer
- Immigration documents
Again, once you’ve signed up, your plan should start the first month following your sign-up date, assuming you’ve paid your first month’s fee.
Look for your insurance card in the mail when you enroll, as well as any other information about the health plan you have chosen.
For more medical information, click here. Also, here’s how to find out if it’s yours and see a doctor at home.
The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a doctor or qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about health conditions or health goals.