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Starting today, Oct. 1, Americans can start enrolling for health insurance under the national Affordable Care Act – also known as “Obamacare.” The enrollment period concludes at the end of March, at which point those who remain uninsured will face tax penalties.
Under Obamacare, people who are already insured may be able to secure lower costs on their current health insurance premiums or out-of-pocket fees, and those who lack coverage altogether may obtain free or low-cost insurance.
According to healthcare.gov – a government website that delineates the program’s ins and outs, “Most people who apply will qualify for lower costs of some kind.”
Moreover, under the new law, health insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to someone with a pre-existing medical condition and cannot impose lifetime caps on coverage.
A breakdown of potential savings
Income and family size largely affect your eligibility for health insurance savings under Obamacare. In general, if your income and corresponding family size fall within the following ranges, you'll qualify for savings in 2014, according to healthcare.gov.
• $11,490 to $45,960 for individuals
• $15,510 to $62,040 for a family of 2
• $19,530 to $78,120 for a family of 3
• $23,550 to $94,200 for a family of 4
• $27,570 to $110,280 for a family of 5
• $31,590 to $126,360 for a family of 6
• $35,610 to $142,440 for a family of 7
• $39,630 to $158,520 for a family of 8
If your income is less than the amounts shown, you may qualify for coverage under the Medicaid program.
The government’s website includes an “estimate calculator” for those wondering what their potential Obamacare savings would be. How reliable an estimate the calculator provides remains to be seen, though. Disclaimers note that the estimates are “rough” because they don’t account for users’ hometowns, which “significantly affect” plan prices and offerings.
Obamacare enrollment is only available online, at the government’s designated website. Coverage can start as early as Jan. 1, 2014.
As part of the registration process, you must provide the following information:
—Social Security number (or document number for legal immigrants)
—Employer and income information for every member of your household who needs coverage (using pay stubs or W-2 forms)
—A completed “Employer Coverage” form for every job-based plan for which you or someone in your household is eligible. (You need to fill out this form even for coverage you’re eligible for but don’t enroll in.)
Will Obamacare and online registration succeed?
"I would suspect that there will be glitches. This is 50 states, a lot of people signing up for something. And there are going to be problems," Obama said of the Internet-based process just after midnight Tuesday. "But what we're confident about is that people will be able to take a look and find out whether this is something that is going to be good for their families."
The Obama administration hopes to sign up 7 million people during the first year and has a goal of eventually signing up at least half of the nearly 50 million uninsured Americans through an expansion of Medicaid or government-subsidized plans provided by private insurers, according to the Associated Press.
But if people become frustrated with predicted glitches in the computer-based enrollment process and turn away from the program, the prospects for success could dim. Many users encountered error message on the government’s website Tuesday due to the large demand for its services.
Persuading relatively young and healthy people to buy insurance – as a way to balance costs for sicker people who are likely to seek coverage quickly – is another challenge that could break Obamacare, the AP points out.
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