These changes will have a major impact on many families and it is important that all of us stay informed so we are prepared to make the best decision for our family. In addition, you may want to read my earlier blog post, "Help Soon for Boomers Without Health Insurance," to learn a little more information about how the the new health insurance exchanges will work.
Brief Overview of Heathcare Reform Changes
As of January 1, 2014, nearly everyone in the United States will have new health insurance opportunities as the result of the Affordable Care Act. Here are some facts you will want to know:
Nearly everyone will be required to purchase health insurance or they will pay a penalty on their taxes at the end of the year. At the end of the first year the penalties will be minimal, allowing people time to become accustomed to the change. Gradually, the tax penalties will increase.
Every state will operate a Health Insurance Marketplace or Exchange. Open enrollment begins in October, 2013. You will be able to purchase insurance either in person, through the mail, by phone or on a website.
You cannot be turned down for health insurance, even if you are currently being treated for a serious illness such as cancer or diabetes. You will no longer be required to have a medical review prior to approval. People who have been unable to purchase an individual insurance policy in the past will now become eligible.
You may be able to get financial assistance to pay for your insurance and your out-of-pocket expenses. The amount of assistance you get will depend on your income. Kaiser gave the example that a single person earning less than $45,000 a year will be eligible for some financial aid. This will be a tremendous help to a lot of single people and young families who are currently uninsured. It could also help Baby Boomer couples when one of them is old enough for Medicare and their spouse is not. If the older spouse is retired and their family income is low, they will be able to get financial assistance to help with the cost of health insurance for the younger spouse. Since I have known several Baby Boomer couples who were faced with this situation, this could literally be a life-saver.
The Affordable Care Act requires four levels of coverage. These have been called Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Bronze plans will have the lowest premiums and the highest co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses. At the other end of the spectrum, Platinum plans will have the highest premiums and the lowest co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses. These four options will give everyone the choice that best meets their budget and healthcare needs. Regardless of cost, all of the policies will have the same basic benefits such as a free annual physicals and certain diagnostic tests.
In addition to the plans mentioned above, there is also a catastrophic plan option. This is only available for young adults under the age of 30, as well as families and older individuals who can show that they are not covered under an employer provided plan or an affordable individual plan. The catastrophic plans will have even lower premiums and higher co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses than the Bronze plan mentioned above. They will also provide the same basic benefits as the other plans, such as a free annual physical and preventative tests. It's main purpose is to make it possible for everyone to have a comprehensive annual physical so that illnesses are caught early, when they can be treated most economically. The catastrophic plan will also provide protection against crippling medical bills in the event of an emergency or serious illness.
If you currently have health insurance, over the next few months your carrier will be providing you with information about the changes you can expect to your policy. Each company will have their own versions of the various plans for their customers to review. For those of you who do not currently have health insurance, you will find additional information in the coming months on this blog, as it becomes available.
Planning for Retirement
If you want more information to help you with your retirement plans, you may be interested in reading some of the articles listed in the index links shown below. Click on the category that interests you and you will discover an introduction and a links to related articles on each topic:
Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships
Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas
Great Places to Retire in the United States
Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers
Money and Financial Planning for Baby Boomers
You are reading from the blog: http://baby-boomer-retirement.blogspot.com
Photo of stethoscope courtesy of www.morguefile.com