Health care reform, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, has become a frequent topic of conversation in the halls of Congress, in the news, and for families sitting around the dinner table.
Under the new law, most Americans will be required to have health insurance in 2014. So how do you know if health care reform impacts you? I'm here to help you understand the basics.
How Does Health Care Reform Impact Me if I Already Have Insurance?
If you already have health insurance, you're all set. Not much will change if you're currently enrolled in a health care plan through your employer, Medicare or Medicaid, or if you are on your parents' insurance plan.
Can I shop for other insurance if I'm already insured? If you have insurance you purchased yourself, you may be able to get a more affordable plan through the new online Health Insurance Marketplace, where you can compare health plans and purchase the one that fits your needs as early as October 1, 2013.
Can I remain covered under my parents' insurance? If you are on your parents' insurance, you can remain on the plan until you turn 26 even if you don't live with them.
Do I qualify for Medicaid? If you're under the age of 65, you can get coverage through Medicaid if your yearly income is less than roughly $15,300, or $31,155 for a family of four. If you're eligible, you get free or low-cost care by applying through the Medicaid website.
How Does Health Care Reform Impact Me if I Am Uninsured?
If you're one of the estimated 30 million Americans who currently do not have health insurance, there are a few key facts you should be aware of. Beginning October 1, 2013, you can shop for and purchase health insurance through the online Health Insurance Marketplace. The marketplace is designed to give you a side-by-side comparison of the various insurance options so you can purchase the plan that fits your health care needs and budget.
What if I can't afford to buy health insurance? To help pay for the cost of health insurance, you may be eligible for financial assistance from the government, called a subsidy. Your eligibility is generally determined by your household income and family size. The subsidy is a health care tax credit, but unlike most tax credits, you won't have to wait until you file your taxes to receive it. The subsidy will be applied directly to your insurance premium when you purchase a plan through the online marketplace.
What happens if I don't buy health insurance? Most people will be required to have health insurance by March 31, 2014. If you don't have insurance by that date, you could receive a penalty on your 2014 tax return (the one you file in 2015). The health care penalty will be prorated based on the number of months you are uninsured and will increase each year; however, there's no penalty for a gap in coverage less than three months.
Who isn't required to purchase health insurance? Those with income below the IRS requirements for filing taxes, those who qualify for religious exemptions, and members of Indian tribes will not be required to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty.
Have questions? Get your healthcare answers on the TurboTax healthcare community.
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Peter Bensen, McDonald's chief financial officer, said on a conference call last year that Obamacare will cost the company and its franchisees $140 million to $420 million per year. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, told NPR in January that Obamacare is "like fascism." He then told HuffPost Live that he regretted making that comparison. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John's, said in August that Obamacare will cost the company $0.11 to $0.14 per pizza. But he has maintained that Papa John's offers and will continue to offer health insurance to all of its employees. (Photo by Diane Bondareff/Invision for Papa John's International/AP Images)
David Overton, CEO of the Cheesecake Factory, told CBS in December that Obamacare "will be very costly" and "most people will have to [raise prices] or cheapen their product" in response. Dina Barmasse-Gray, the Cheesecake Factory's senior vice president of human resources, said in a statement to The Huffington Post: "We have the highest regard for the wellbeing of our staff members, and have offered health insurance to our staff members who work at least 25 hours per week for many years. Because of our long history of providing health benefits, and based on our current analysis of the new requirements, we do not believe the Affordable Health Care Act will have a material impact on us."
Boeing lobbied unsuccessfully against a new Obamacare fee, according to the Wall Street Journal. And it is generally concerned about Obamacare's costs. "Boeing agrees with the intent of the Affordability Care Act – to provide increased access to coverage, to improve quality, and in the long run, to help manage the overall cost of the health care system," Boeing spokesman Joseph Tedino said in a statement provided to The Huffington Post in March. "However, while the details and implications of the ACA continue to emerge, the net financial impact to Boeing since the inception of law and for the foreseeable future is negative." (Photo by Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)
Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE, told Bloomberg Businessweek last year that he plans to respond to Obamacare by selling cheaper meats and hiring more part-time workers. He also told Newsmax he plans to build fewer restaurants in response. (Photo by Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images)
Jimmy John's CEO Jimmy John Liautaud told Fox News last year that he plans to cut his workers' hours in order to avoid having to offer them health insurance under Obamacare. "We have to bring them down to 28 hours [per week]," he said. "There's no other way we can survive it."