Today is the big day! Today, the new health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act will open (sorry, Ted Cruz), and millions of Americans will be able to apply for affordable coverage. Here are the five things you need to know:
1) If you already have insurance through your employer, Medicaid, or Medicare, then nothing changes for you. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes many benefits for insured Americans that already kicked in earlier this year, such as free birth control, free mammograms, coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, and no more lifetime limits on healthcare.
2) If you are uninsured or buy your own insurance, you should check out the exchange. If you already have coverage through an individual insurance policy, you may find a better deal on the exchange. If you have trouble navigating the exchange, get help here.
3) You have until March 31, 2014 to enroll. After that, the exchanges will close until the next annual enrollment period. You can only enroll outside of the enrollment period if you have a “qualifying life event,” like losing a job.
4) If you remain uninsured, you may have to pay a fee. The fee in 2014 is 1% of your yearly income or $95 per person– whichever amounts to more. The fee will increase every year. There are exemptions, but you better make sure you qualify before you decide to go without coverage.
5) Some 500,000 of North Carolina’s poorest residents won’t have to pay the fee, but they won’t get insurance coverage either. That’s because Governor McCrory and state leaders refused to expand Medicaid, as called for under the Affordable Care Act.
It’s a new day in America, folks! Be healthy, and get insured.