If you’re lucky, you’re among the many adults that are able to take advantage of employer-sponsored health benefits, including access to great coverage at affordable rates (thanks to the negotiating power that comes with group health insurance, not to mention the fact that a portion of costs is typically paid by your employer). Unfortunately, not every American has access to such benefits. For one thing, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees aren’t required by law to offer health insurance benefits (although some choose to anyway). Or perhaps your employer won’t cover a spouse and children, leaving you looking for a different policy. If you find yourself unemployed or only working part-time, then you may not have access to employee-sponsored healthcare either. In any case, there are a few things you should know if you find yourself looking for a private individual or family policy.
If you’re not able to get insurance through your employer, you have two main options when it comes to purchasing your own insurance. You can either procure health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), known as Obamacare, or you can seek a policy through a private insurance provider. In truth, there is a third option – you could also elect to forego health insurance altogether. However, you will face penalties for failing to carry minimum essential coverage as prescribed by the ACA unless you apply for and receive an exemption.
However, you’re better off gaining the peace of mind and access to affordable healthcare services that come with purchasing your own health insurance. The question is: which one should you pick? This may depend on several factors, including your income, your relative health, the number of family members you wish to include on your plan, your state of residence (including applicable laws, as well as whether or not they have embraced Obamacare and dedicated additional state funds to associated programs like Medicaid), and so on.
If you are in a low-income tax bracket, for example, you’re almost certainly better off registering for Obamacare through your state health exchange (or simply going to healthcare.gov if your state is one that has yet to set up an exchange). The reason for this is that Obamacare was designed with low-income individuals and families in mind, and you may be eligible for assistance in paying for your health insurance. If you meet criteria, you may even be eligible for Medicare, Medicaid, or CHIP (a program for children). You will not have these options if you purchase private health care.
Once you have registered, you’ll be presented with plan options ranging from bronze, to silver, to gold, to platinum. They will come with different levels of coverage, cost, and plan options (deductibles, co-pays, etc.). Still, you may be interested in exploring all options. If you happen to be in a higher income bracket it might not make much difference if you sign up for coverage through Obamacare or you opt to purchase directly from a private health insurance provider. You’ll also have to consider different types of policies and select the options and pricing that best suit your needs.
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