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Healthcare Reform FAQ

What is the new healthcare law?
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law in 2010. It was designed to expand access to and improve the quality of healthcare for Americans. Some of the healthcare changes took effect immediately while others are being phased in over time. Large parts of the law will become effective on January 1, 2014. The biggest effect of the ACA is that people who previously couldn't afford or qualify for coverage will now be able to sign up for health insurance.

What if I can't afford health insurance?
Tax credits and subsidies will take effect in 2014, helping those in need pay for health insurance. Depending on your financial situation you may even be eligible for a $0 premium plan. Under the new law you can see what your estimated premium, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs will be before you make a decision to enroll in an insurance plan.

What happens in October 2013 that's so important?
On October 1, 2013 the first open enrollment period begins for buying insurance on the health insurance exchanges (also known as marketplaces) and will end on March 31, 2014. The exchanges will have calculators to help determine monthly premiums. They can also help determine whether you qualify for financial help to help pay health insurance premiums. Coverage purchased through the exchanges prior to December 23, 2013 will start on January 1, 2014.

Once open enrollment closes on March 31st, enrollment in the exchanges won't open up again till the next open enrollment period in the fall of 2014 unless an individual has a qualifying event (e.g. birth of a child, marriage, loss of employer-based coverage) .

What is happening in 2014?
The Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010. Some of the law's effects have taken place over the past three years. But the biggest changes for consumers will be in 2014. Starting January 1, 2014 almost everyone in the U.S. will be required by law to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty. Also in 2014 individuals can no longer be denied or see a price increase for coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Health insurance exchanges with financial assistance for families in need will also be established in 2014.

Can people with pre-existing conditions get health insurance?
Guaranteed Coverage requires health insurance companies to insure everyone who applies and pays the premiums for coverage. Under the new law insurance companies are also prevented from charging people who need more healthcare, such as the elderly, pregnant women, and those with pre-existing conditions.

Can my young adult son or daughter stay covered on my family plan?
Under the new healthcare law you'll be able to keep your adult children insured on your plan up until their 26th birthday. Most limits to keeping your young adult son or daughter on your coverage are removed. This means they don't have to be a full-time student, live with you, be disabled or be a tax dependent.

What's the penalty for not purchasing health insurance?
If you're not covered by health insurance in 2014 you could be required to pay a penalty on your federal income tax. In 2014 the penalty is the higher of two amounts - $95 per person up to $285 for a family or 1 percent of income (whichever is greater). These penalties increase each year through 2016.

Am I buying government health insurance on the online marketplace?
Insurance purchased through an exchange is provided by private insurance companies - not the government. The government may provide financial assistance for people who need help paying for healthcare coverage and operate the exchange/marketplace, but the insurance products are provided by private health plans like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, etc.