Beginning in January 2014, Americans must either be covered by health insurance or pay a tax penalty. To facilitate this program, either your state or the federal government must provide a “Marketplace,” (also known as the Health Insurance Exchange) that enables you to compare and buy health policies from any of several different companies.
You can also use the program to find out if you qualify for a tax credit to help pay for the insurance or if you qualify for Medicaid assistance. You can reach the Marketplace through a website, through the mail or by telephone.
The plans in the Marketplace are offered by private insurance companies. All must provide a set of core benefits, and none may reject you because of an existing illness or other medical condition.
If you already have a health care policy, you needn’t do anything at all. You may, however, use the Marketplace to seek out and purchase cheaper and/or better coverage if available, unless you’re age 65 or older. In the latter case, you’ll generally be covered by Medicare and will not be subject to the new law.
If you don’t have health insurance, you can buy a policy directly from a provider, or you can use the Marketplace to find the coverage that suits you best. The cost will depend on the desired benefits, your income, and the size of your family. Marketplace information about prices and benefits will be provided so that you will be able to compare policies before you enroll.
To access the program, compare options, and/or sign up, visit the federal website at www.HealthCare.gov. California has it’s own website at Covered California. If your state is running its own program, you’ll be directed to the appropriate website from HealthCare.com. You can also call 1-800-318-2596 for options, instructions, and answers to questions.