Last updated on August 12th, 2013
With the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA or Obamacare as many know it) requirement that all Americans purchase medical insurance or face a tax, there are many people that are looking to buy health insurance for the first time ever. But where to start, and how to get a good plan that fits your needs and financial budget? Fortunately, there are several places to look, and before long you will find a plan that is close to what you are looking for.
If your employer allows you to buy health insurance, it can be very advantageous to be covered by that plan. Employers usually subsidize a portion of the employee’s premium. Because of this, you can usually purchase a plan cheaper through your employer than on your own in the individual market.
Of course, you have less control over the plans offered by your employer. You must accept the insurance company and medical plan chosen by the company, and you are stuck with the premiums that the group is charged.
However, there is less hassle with just signing up for an employer plan. If you are happy with the plan and the cost, go ahead and get covered through your job.
Health Insurance Exchanges
If you are not offered coverage through work, you can buy health insurance through the exchanges set up through PPACA. The exchanges are online marketplaces that display plans available to you and the premiums for the plans. Not all insurance companies participate in the exchanges, and there are a limited amount of plan designs available, but the marketplaces help you to easily compare plans.
In addition, if you buy health insurance through an exchange, you might be eligible for a tax credit to help offset the cost of the plan. The exchange will calculate your subsidy when you buy the plan, but as a guide, you can receive assistance if you earn less than 400% of the poverty level, which is adjusted each year.
The Individual Marketplaces
The online marketplaces are not the only way you can buy health insurance outside of your employer. If the exchanges do not offer you good options, you can always go look for a good medical plan on your own. There are many insurance companies that offer all sorts of plan designs. Shopping on your own requires some work and research, but if you have a few hours available, you can get the job done.
If you want to go this route to buy health insurance, but don’t have the time to commit to the project, you can hire a broker to do the work for you. They will charge a small commission, but they are generally worth the money.
If affordable health insurance is difficult for you to come across, Medicaid may be the answer. Medicaid is a way for low income earners to receive assistance in paying for health care services. Medicaid is administered by the states, and eligibility varies by state, so if you think you may fall in this bucket, contact your state’s Medicaid office.
Only you know the goals that you have when you buy health insurance. If you have an idea of how much you would like to spend on monthly premiums and how much risk you are willing to take in out of pocket expenses, you can find the right plan for you.