Round 2: Signing Up for Obamacare
Eileen St. Pierre, The Everyday Financial Planner
Open enrollment for those individuals and families wanting to purchase health insurance in the Marketplace started on November 15. Although the enrollment period runs through February 15, you need to enroll by December 15 for your policy to become effective on January 1, 2015.
Boy, what a difference a year makes! I had no problems re-enrolling through www.healthcare.gov.
Re-calculate your tax credit.
Once I finally realized that I had written down the wrong username, I had no problem accessing my account. Recalculating our advanced premium tax credit was straightforward. Even though our estimated income is the same as last year, our tax credit is going up $13 per month. So I would encourage those of you currently getting a tax credit to have it re-calculated even if you expect the same income and plan on keeping your current health insurance plan. Remember these things:
- You are supposed to let the Marketplace know if you have changes in income.
- If you end up understating your income, you will have to pay some of the tax credit back when you file your taxes in the following year.
- If you end up overstating your income, you will get a larger tax refund when you file your taxes in the following year.
Re-examine your insurance options.
We actually ended up being happy with our health insurance provider last year. We had some issues with the bills from my husband’s surgery, but they eventually worked out in our favor. Read my column V is for Victory over Medical Bills for our story.
In my state of Oklahoma, the only provider with policies on the Marketplace is Blue Cross Blue Shield. That’s ok with us because that’s who we would have picked anyway. But it does highlight that options may be limited for some consumers.
There were seven Bronze plans, seven Silver plans, and eight Gold plans available to us. No Platinum plans were available. We decided to stay with the same policy. Cheaper ones were available, but our local medical center where we go for most of our medical care is not in their network.
Be prepared to pay more – and watch out for rising deductibles.
You may be in for quite a shock if your income goes up.
- If you had been eligible for cost-sharing in 2014, this meant that you had a lower deductible and lower out-of-pocket maximum than others in the same plan.
- If your estimated income in 2015 goes up, it may bump you into the next income bracket, reducing or even eliminating your cost-sharing. The result is a much higher deductible and out-of-pocket maximum.
- The bottom line – Losing some or all of your cost-sharing will not result in higher premiums, but it will raise your health insurance costs overall.
The premium for our policy is going up by $93.26 per month. Factoring in our tax credit, we will have to pay $80.26 more per month for health insurance in 2015. It’s still less than what we paid when I had health insurance from my former employer. But it would be hard for us to pay this without the tax credit.
The future of tax credits is still unknown.
Knowing these tax credits were available made it possible for us to have health insurance coverage while launching our own business. The Supreme Court will decide by June 2015 if tax credits offered to those purchasing health insurance on federal exchanges are allowed.
- See my column T means Tax Subsidies for Obamacare Up in the Air for background on this issue.
- It will also be interesting to see how a Republican takeover of the Senate will impact the Affordable Care Act (ACA) going forward.
For me personally, I’m reasonably confident that my health insurance policy and tax credit will not be changed during 2015. Despite all the opposition to Obamacare, it would be too difficult politically to completely overhaul ACA right away. But for 2016, all bets are off. I’ve got a year to get ready.