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In just under a month, millions of uninsured Americans will be able to apply for health care coverage on their state’s new insurance marketplace.
I’ll be one of those folks. While I have health insurance right now, I expect that my coverage will be gone by the end of the year. So I’m relieved that the state insurance marketplaces will be open for business on Oct. 1. Going without health insurance at my age — or any age — can be a recipe for financial disaster.
So, is there anything you and I can do right now to prepare before we can actually submit an application on and after Oct. 1? (Actual insurance coverage won’t begin until Jan. 1.)
It turns out there is. Let’s walk through the steps. (This should be easier than getting your free credit report in six easy steps, which we showed you how to do earlier this week.)
- Go to HealthCare.gov.
- The first thing to do is sign up for email and text updates about important developments. All you have to provide is your email address and your state.
- Next you get to answer some questions to see if you’ll be eligible for a subsidy to help you pay for your health care plan. They include:
- Are you an individual or family, or are you a small business owner? Businesses that employ 50 or fewer people can buy health insurance on the marketplaces too. The marketplaces aren’t limited to people seeking individual coverage.
- Are you male or female, what’s your state, and what range does your age fall in? I’m in the 30-64 group.
- Next you’re asked about things like whether you have coverage now and, if so, whether you bought it yourself or got it through work. The possible answers — it’s multiple choice — are easily understood. The answers you provide will generate some valuable information. For instance:
- The website informed me that I’ll probably earn too much income to qualify for a subsidy – in the form of a federal tax credit – to help cover the cost of the monthly premiums. (I certainly have no complaint about that.)
- Because my state has opted to allow the federal government to operate its insurance marketplace, I’m told that I will be applying through the HealthCare.gov website. If your state is one of those running its own marketplace, you’ll be directed to another website to apply.
Next I was presented with the opportunity to create an account with a user name, password and security questions. (You’ll need to have an email address to do this, and you can click on one of the links on the page to services like Google Mail and Yahoo to set one up.)
Then I encountered a glitch. When you create an account, you’re sent an email with a link that you must click on to complete the account setup. When I clicked on that link — even though I did it within seconds of getting the email — I got a message that I’d waited too long. This happened numerous times. I used the live chat feature to ask about my problem. The person I “spoke” with apologized but couldn’t offer a fix.
I do know of others who have successfully created an account, so try it and see if it works.
What else can you do to get ready for Oct. 1? The government suggests you have these documents available when it comes time to fill out the online application form:
- Social Security numbers (or document numbers for legal immigrants).
- Employer and income information for every household member who needs coverage — pay stubs or W-2s.
- The policy numbers for any health insurance plans currently covering people in your household.
- A completed “employer coverage tool” for every job-based plan you or someone in your household is eligible for, whether you’re enrolled or not. The employer coverage tool will be provided.
When you apply, you’re going to have to choose from among four levels of coverage. So it’s best to make yourself familiar with insurance terminology like deductibles, co-payments, coinsurance and the like. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson explained how to shop for health insurance in this video last year:
Should you care about any of this? Since most people get their insurance through work-based plans subsidized by their employers, these marketplaces likely won’t interest them. But it doesn’t hurt to look.
Need more information about Obamacare and how to figure out if and how it will affect you? See our previous articles:
Stay tuned. We’ll be providing more articles and videos to help you understand what’s going on.