12/18/2013 01:43 pm ET Updated Feb 17, 2014

Health Care and Your Financial Plan

There has been non-stop media coverage about the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare. As we approach the December 23rd enrollment deadline, here are a few ways these changes may affect your personal finances.

1. Get Covered -- If you don't currently have insurance, this is the number one thing you can do to improve your financial situation. (Not to mention this could be very important for your health and wellbeing). Risk management is a critical part of any financial plan. Even if you're young and healthy, there is always a chance you could get hit by a proverbial bus and suddenly need a lot of expensive medical care. If you don't have insurance, this situation can be very difficult to recover from financially. See item #3 if you're concerned about paying for coverage. 

2. Assess Health Care Needs -- Prioritize what is important to you when it comes to care. Review the care you currently seek and consider future needs if you're starting a family or other considerations. This article on Forbes has a lot of useful information to help you decide on coverage that is right for you.

3. Consult a Broker or Agent -- If you feel overwhelmed by the process of deciding on an insurance plan or navigating the exchange, an insurance broker can be a helpful resource. Also, you won't pay more for using a broker or agent.

4. Putting the "Affordable" in the ACA -- If you're worried about paying for coverage, be sure to register through or your state's exchange. That way you'll be eligible for discounted coverage based on your income. Unfortunately, premiums won't go down for everyone and will rise significantly for some (including myself). However, you'll get dinged with a penalty for not enrolling so this is another financial incentive to be sure to enroll. This link helps you assess if you qualify to save on coverage based on your income.

If you're saving money on premiums be sure to put that savings to good use. Go through a financial checklist of things you could improve; Do you have any outstanding debt that needs to be paid off? Do you have a dedicated emergency fund in place? Have you been putting funds into an IRA, Roth IRA or other retirement account?

5. Emergency Fund -- Having an emergency fund in place is another crucial step in your financial plan. The general rule of thumb is to set three to six months of expenses aside. Also, consider having enough in an emergency fund to cover the deductible on your health insurance policy. Part of these funds could be in the form of a Health Savings Account if you have a plan that qualifies. An HSA can also be a helpful way to save money on taxes as you budget for out of pocket medical expenses.

I hope these items prove helpful so that you can put coverage in place and SaveUp!

This post was written by SaveUp's personal finance contributing writer, Catherine Hawley, CFP.

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