The Affordable Care Act (ACA), more commonly known as Obamacare, was enacted for the purpose of helping to ensure that underserved groups could gain access to affordable health care. At the time, nearly 30 million Americans were uninsured, and some were uninsurable having been denied health coverage due to a preexisting condition. With laws requiring all U.S. residents to carry health insurance or face annual penalties, paired with provisions for offering affordable options to everyone, the ACA has certainly changed the health insurance landscape. However, the transition has been bumpy. If you are in the low-income category, you still may not understand the options available to you.
While Obamacare has created either state-run or federal insurance marketplaces to obtain private insurance coverage, some families may have a household income that is still too low to afford such coverage. Federal safety-net programs including Medicaid may be the best program to obtain health care. However, even though the qualifications for Medicaid eligibility were expanded with the passage of the ACA, therefore covering more of the uninsured, it has not been implemented equally across the country.
One problem is that some of the program is federally funded while some of it is state funded, with the percentage each parties pays varying over the course of multiple years. Because of this, and other factors, some states opted to support Obamacare and their underserved resident populations by adding money into Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs for low-income individuals and families. Other states have withheld, offering no support for the program leaving more of their citizens uninsured. You can determine what benefits you qualify for by filling out an application with your state health insurance exchange or at HealthCare.gov.
You can and should try to get coverage through your work if it is offered – this is often the least expensive option. You can also apply for ACA coverage through healthcare.gov or your state’s exchange; and for low-income individuals and families, this is definitely an option worth exploring, especially if a job does not provide coverage or you can’t afford the coverage offered, even with an employer sponsored benefits package. You can apply for reduced rates on ACA plans through licensed agents, brokers or directly through healthcare.gov.
Your status as a low-income individual will depend on several factors, most notably your household income and the number of dependents you claim when filing taxes. In addition, certain groups are eligible for additional services through Medicare and related programs. Senior citizens, expectant mothers, children, and disabled individuals are amongst the underserved groups that may be eligible for preferential treatment in terms of low- or no-cost health services. Low-income individuals and families can also qualify for discounted insurance coverage. You simply won’t know until you apply.
Don’t forget, you may also be eligible for tax credits that reduce your overall cost. Plus, you can always select a higher deductible and choose other plan options that will reduce premiums. If you and your dependents are relatively healthy, you may only need a policy that covers preventive care and catastrophic occurrences, provided it meets the minimum standards for coverage under the law.
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