This article was written in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
Are you uninsured, or know someone who is? Need to explore individual health plans for any reason? Like to save money? Read on!
Unless you and I are of a similar nerd persuasion, health policy and personal finance aren’t so fun to read about. Please,
though, this is important—give me 600 words to run through the new health law. I’ll try to break down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into the main points that you and your loved ones especially need to know.
First, most importantly: March 31 is the final day to purchase an individual health plan if you want to be covered in 2014. It’s also the last day to get financial help with coverage. Except in certain limited circumstances, if you don’t get covered now, you’ll have to wait till 2015 for coverage to begin.
Why in the world are we trying to turn health care on its head?
So many reasons, but let’s focus on two. Economics, for one. Nationally, health expenditures totaled 17.9% of the gross domestic product in 2012 (that translates to around $2.8 TRILLION), and is predicted to increase to 19.9% by 2022 (to around $5 trillion). One ACA goal is to “bend the cost curve,” as economists like to say.
Also, accessibility. Many people in the US have a difficult time accessing the health care system, often for financial reasons. In Michigan alone, nearly one million people are uninsured—that’s roughly one-fifth of the state’s population. Often, being uninsured means that care is delayed until a health issue is so bad that it requires the costliest care—a visit to the ER. And, most of these chronic issues can be prevented with the right care. The health law also aims to make affordable health coverage available to everyone.
Affordability under the health law comes in a couple of different ways:
- Financial help, often called “subsidies”, for private plans. Individuals earning between $15,521 and $46,680 could be eligible for subsidies. The income levels at which families are eligible scale up according to the number of people in the household.
- Healthy Michigan, our Medicaid expansion plan. This coverage option will be available in April 2014. Individuals with income below around $15,521 may be eligible for Healthy Michigan.
Want to see if you might qualify for subsidies or Healthy Michigan? Check here.
What do I do?
March 31, 2014 is an incredibly important date. It’s Opening Day (holidays are capitalized, right?) for the Tigers. It’s also the last day to claim subsidies and enroll in an individual health plan for the 2014 plan year. You can get your plan in a few different ways:
- Visit the Health Insurance Marketplace (www.healthcare.gov) and buy a plan on your own.
- Seek the help of a health insurance agent certified to sell on the Marketplace. Here are a few tips.
- Call your prospective insurer directly.
- Come to Be Covered, Be Confident: A Free Health Resource Expo in either Southfield on March 15 between 10 AM-3 PM, or Saginaw on March 27 between 1 PM and 8 PM. You can enroll on-site with the help of a health insurance pro, enjoy refreshments, learn about key topics, etc.
Register here. Resources will be available for individuals, families, and small business representatives. The expos are presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Detroit Regional Chamber’s MI Health Answers program.
Can’t come to the expos? Here’s a list of education and enrollment events happening throughout the remainder of March.
So, that’s complicated. Have questions? Reach out to me at my day job—I manage MI Health Answers. Visit our forum to pose your question online, or reach me directly by clicking on “Ask Advisor”. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, too.