The enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also called simply the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare, means that every American is now required to carry “minimum essential coverage” or possibly face fees at the end of each calendar year. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sign up for Obamacare. There are a number of people who will have to sign up for coverage through the healthcare marketplace, but you may or may not be among this number. If you want to find out if you are required to sign up, here are some guidelines to follow.
If you already carry comprehensive health insurance, either through your employer or on your own, there’s a good chance you will not be required to sign up for coverage via the healthcare exchange. A short-term policy, however, does not meet the criteria for minimum essential coverage. But if you are insured through a private company and you have a comprehensive policy that provides for ongoing medical coverage, you are almost certainly operating within the laws requiring you to obtain and maintain healthcare coverage.
If, on the other hand, you are unable to pay for a policy through a private insurance provider, you may be required to sign up for Obamacare in order to get these plans at reduced rates. The ACA is intended to help those who are uninsured due to financial hardship, namely members of low-income households, as well as underserved individuals (children, the elderly, pregnant women, etc.). In this case, you will have to apply for coverage through the health insurance marketplace. However, you may not end up having to pay for your coverage. If you meet certain criteria, your health insurance coverage may be provided for free or at a low cost.
Of course, there are also a number of exemptions. If you qualify for any of them, you may be able to avoid both the required minimum coverage and the penalties associated with failing to obtain legally mandated coverage. If you are homeless or in the process of being evicted, for example, you might be exempt from signing up for Obamacare (at least for a time). The same may be true if you are currently embroiled in bankruptcy proceedings. And members of certain religious groups could also be exempt, although you will have to make sure you are part of a recognized religious sect and then fill out the appropriate paperwork in order to receive such exemptions. If your exemption is not approved, you will still be required to carry minimum essential coverage.
In truth, only a relatively small portion of the populace will actually be required to sign up for Obamacare through the healthcare marketplace. After all, the majority of adults and their family members already carry comprehensive policies through their work or on their own. But if you are unable to afford such coverage, it is not offered through your work, or you simply want to understand your options, there’s no reason not to apply with the healthcare marketplace in order to find out what kind of health insurance coverage you can get and at what cost.