Have you looked at getting health insurance under the Affordable Care Act in the past but decided it didn’t work for you? If so, it may be time to take another look at the health care program that’s also known as “Obamacare.” You have about two weeks to enroll and have insurance through 2021.
Significant changes have been made under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. If you weren’t eligible for the ACA before, you may be now. And if you already are enrolled in a Health Insurance Marketplace plan, or if you looked into it in the past but thought the premiums were too high, you probably now qualify for more tax credits. This means your premium will decrease.
If you’re interested in getting health care for the rest of 2021, you need to put enrollment on your summer to-do list. You have through Aug. 15, 2021, to enroll for health insurance during a special ACA enrollment period. But first, a quick overview of what the ACA is all about.
How can the ACA help me get health insurance?
Former President Obama’s health care law made insurance available to more people through the Health Insurance Marketplace. The Marketplace is a service that helps people shop for and enroll in health insurance. The federal government operates the Health Insurance Marketplace for most states, though some states run their own Marketplaces.
The ACA also allowed states to expand who is eligible for Medicaid, although many states did not do this.
How does a premium tax credit reduce what I pay for insurance?
Here’s how it’s explained on healthcare.gov:
“When you apply for coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace, you’ll find out if you qualify for a “premium tax credit” that lowers your premium — the amount you pay each month to your insurance plan.
The amount of your premium tax credit depends on the estimated household income for 2021 that you put on your Marketplace application.
You can apply some or all of this tax credit to your monthly insurance premium payment. The Marketplace will send your tax credit directly to your insurance company, so you’ll pay less each month. This is called taking an ‘advance payment of the premium tax credit.’ ”
How is the Health Insurance Marketplace different from Medicaid?
Medicaid is government-run health coverage provided to people with limited incomes. The Health Insurance Marketplace helps people find plans from private health insurers. If your income is low enough, you may then qualify for premium tax credits that help lower your monthly premium for a Marketplace insurance plan.
What is different about the ACA this year?
- More people qualify. If you tried to enroll in the past but you made too much money to qualify for a premium tax credit, try again. The American Rescue Plan extends subsidies to people with higher incomes. Before the new law, premium tax credits were available only to people making between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level — between about $12,760 and $51,040 for one person.
Now, anyone whose premiums are more than 8.5% of their overall household income can get a premium tax credit. There’s no upper income limit.
- If you qualified before, you’ll very likely get a bigger premium tax credit. For example, people with incomes between 100% and 150% of the federal poverty level are now eligible for coverage without having to pay any premiums at all.
Can I save money on a current Marketplace plan?
The short answer is probably yes. The healthcare.gov site advises you to log in to update your application and enrollment. Your new eligibility results will show you the extra tax credit amount.
Then, update your plan selection with increased tax credits. If you qualify for more tax credit, reselect your current plan in order for the changes to take effect to lower your premiums for the rest of the year.
You can also wait until you file and “reconcile” your 2021 taxes next year (in 2022) to get the additional premium tax credit amount, but why pay more every month when you don’t have to?
Where do I find out more and how do I enroll?
Believe it or not, the government’s site offers clear explanations of the enrollment process and how you can benefit from changes in the law. Just remember to visit the website by Aug. 15, 2021, when the enrollment period ends.