There have been few periods in history when the health care system is changing as radically as it is now. Just a few years ago, President Barack Obama passed the Affordable Care Act which transformed how millions of Americans got health insurance and medical care. While this led to almost 17.7 million more insured in the U.S. through the health insurance marketplaces and the expanded Medicaid program, it has also inspired heated opposition that is fueling political initiatives to repeal and replace Obamacare.
President Donald Trump and the Republican majority Congress are eager to fulfill their promise to abolish the Affordable Care Act and produce a new health care system that is more cost effective for American households as well as the government. In May of 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), and the Senate is currently formulating their own health care reform bill, the Better Health Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA).
Both of these reform proposals would make sweeping changes to the current health insurance system. Both bills would gradually cut off funding for the expanded Medicaid programs that many states have enacted, leading to loss of coverage for up to 23 million Americans in the first ten years. While the bills differ in how they would help Americans obtain health insurance—one uses government subsidies, the other proposes tax credits—it is clear that they would provide less assistance than the current Obamacare mechanisms.
If you do not have health insurance at the moment, then you are likely violating a provision of the Affordable Care Act known as the Individual Mandate. The Individual Mandate requires that you have health insurance or pay a tax penalty. This only applies if you and your family have an income of 133 percent of the poverty level, or $13,350 for an individual or $20,700 for a couple, or more in 2016. If you have enough income but do not get health insurance you may have to pay a penalty of 2.5 percent of your income or $695 per adult, whichever is higher.
The Individual Mandate applies to the system established under the Affordable Care Act, but the new GOP bills would also impose penalties on people who forgo health coverage. Under the American Health Care Act, people who drop coverage would pay a 30 percent late enrollment surcharge in addition to the base premium for the first year after re-enrollment.
The Senate bill does not include a financial penalty, but it still encourages people to obtain health insurance. It does this by requiring that anyone who loses health coverage for 63 days or more wait six months prior to enrollment. This prevents people from dropping coverage and immediately re-enrolling when they encounter an illness or injury.
Take Advantage of Generous Government Assistance
If you make less than 400 percent of the federal poverty line, you should enroll in an individual health plan or in Medicaid as soon as possible because there is currently an enormous amount of government assistance available now. If you are an individual or a family, you may get a robust health plan with many important benefits like free doctor’s visits, discounts on prescription drugs and free vaccines, all for only a few dollars a month.
Obamacare health plans offer hundreds of dollars in government subsidies each month for qualified enrollees. If you earn an income between 133 percent and 400 percent of the poverty line, then you are probably eligible for some form of government assistance in paying your premiums. Almost one in six Americans who get insurance through the ACA-sponsored health exchanges, pays less than $100 a month in premiums.
If you make less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level, then you may be eligible to enroll in Medicaid. Although Medicaid is a federally funded program, it is administered by state governments, so eligibility requirements may differ from state to state. Medicaid provides health insurance to enrollees and pays a portion of medical bills.
Although there is no certainty that these programs will continue as they are, there is no reason not to enjoy the benefits they offer for as long as possible. Even if the federal government does enact major changes to many of these programs, some of these benefits should continue. In many cases, there are advantages to joining these programs before they are modified; in other words, you may be able to continue the benefits because you were already enrolled.
Protect Your Health
The most compelling reason for getting health insurance is, of course, that it will help protect the health of you and your family. With a strong health plan, you don’t need to worry about the cost of medical care preventing you from seeing a doctor or visiting the emergency room when you need. You will get the help you need as soon as possible, and you don’t need to make painful decisions about choosing between essential health services or other financial responsibilities.
You may feel that you are too healthy to require medical care, but you are gambling with your health—and your finances. Eventually, you will have a health issue, no matter how careful you are, and, when you do, you will probably face enormous medical bills that will be difficult to pay without insurance. A simple injury like a broken leg may cost you up to $7,500 and a 3-day hospital stay can be as much as $30,000. If you encounter a major health problem like cancer or organ failure, you could get bills for hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.
With the right health insurance policy, you can be prepared for these eventualities. For just a minor monthly payment, you can ensure that you and your family have access to first class medical care at an affordable price. If you would like to learn more about health plans available to you, please speak to one of our agents at Boost Health Insurance.