When does open enrollment start and how long does it last?
"Open enrollment starts Saturday, November 15 and goes through February 15. If you want to be covered by January 1, 2015, you need to sign up by December 15 — so get to work!
How do I actually do the sign-up thing?
"Start by shopping at Healthcare.gov, and from there you can get to your individual state marketplaces on separate sites. We’re told the site has a great new design that makes comparison shopping easier than ever."
What if I don’t want to?
"Well, these days, the law actually requires you to have health insurance — and if you don’t, you could be on the hook for a tax penalty. You can do the math yourself, but you’re better off buying insurance, and, you know, having medical coverage than paying the penalty.
Who benefits the most from Obamacare?
"This past year, young people between the ages of 19-34 got the most benefit from the new universal healthcare program. That’s because it dropped a lot of insurance payments to lower rates, making it more affordable for young people to protect themselves. It was also great for younger people because if you make below a certain amount of money, that means you might be eligible for a subsidy — meaning you pay very little out of pocket."
How do I know if I qualify for a subsidy?
"You have to go through the market and enter your income and personal information to find out. Lots of young people — especially if they’re just starting out — qualify, and you might be eligible for financial assistance, too."
I’m under 26 and I don’t have insurance. Do I have to sign up?
"Nope, so long as you’re covered under your parents’ insurance plan. Just check with mom and dad and make sure you’re still on their policy, and you should be good to go."
What do I get when I enroll?
"One of the things Obamacare did was standardize insurance plans so that every health care plan has to have certain ‘essential benefits’: maternity care, care for newborns, birth control (which the government picks up if your private health care policy does not), mental health and substance abuse services, and primary care coverage. "
I’m a freelancer. What should I do?
"Get over to that open enrollment site, ASAP! This is basically tailor-made for the freelance (and underemployed) economy. Even if you don’t think you can afford it, check it out because the law offers subsidies for individuals with certain income levels in need of assistance. The whole point is that the government wants you to be insured, so they’ll subsidize individuals as-needed to make that happen."
Okay, okay, I’m sold. How much is this going to actually cost me?
"Bad news: The rates across the board nationally are increasing (although pretty moderately, to be fair). Great news: There are some markets where you’ll see some plans are actually going down. Generally, there’s just a lot of variation, so check on your individual state, or visit Healthcare.gov."
What’s the actual coverage like?
"There are different levels of plans, that are priced accordingly (but all contain the base essential care coverage). There are four basic levels, and they’re named by precious metals: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum.
Anything else I need to know?
"It’s good to go into this knowing your rights: Women can’t be charged more than men, for example, and until you’re 64 you can’t be penalized for age through pricing either. You can get a surcharge for smoking though, and keep in mind that rates can vary by area.