How will health care reform change things?
The federal health care law known as the Affordable Care Act will bring many changes, especially for people who don’t have health insurance now.
Starting January 1, 2014, most people will need to have healthcare coverage. This is part of the individual mandate, the requirement by the government, that individuals buy health insurance. If you do not have a health care plan by 2014 you will have to pay a new tax. However, don’t forget that you may be able to get help from the government to pay for your health plan.
What is health insurance?
Everyone needs health care at some point. Sometimes it can be expensive, which is why health insurance exists: to pay a large part of the cost when you need it.
Health insurance pays part of your costs for doctor or hospital visits, prescription drugs, tests, maternity care and other health services you may need. This is called healthcare coverage. It helps protects you from high costs when you need medical care, while most healthcare plans also have wellness (or preventive) services to help keep you healthy – like annual check-ups, mammograms and vaccines – at no extra cost.
So how does health insurance work? Your health insurance plan is a contract between you and your insurance company. You pay a monthly bill called a “premium” for the health plan and the insurance company agrees to pay part of the cost for covered medical services. If you go to a doctor on your insurance company’s preferred list, you will usually pay less for services.
Are there different kinds of plans?
To provide greater choice, there are plans of varying cost and coverage. These are indicated by four levels: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. These plans will all offer coverage for the same essential health benefits, with different out-of-pocket costs for things like doctor or hospital visits and different premiums.
One other option, called a Catastrophic Plan, is only for single people under age 30, or people who qualify through financial hardship. Catastrophic Plans cost less money, but have fewer benefits. They include preventive benefits, but don’t cover as much when you are sick and usually have high deductibles.