Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Obamacare Has Arrived - Are You Prepared?

By Richard L. Peatman, Pharm. D., Meadow Vista Pharmacy

As everyone knows, the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” will start January 1, 2014.  It is critical to plan now for your healthcare coverage in the coming year.
Obamacare is for individuals who are not yet covered by Medicare.  Where do you start?  If you are employed and are offered insurance, check out the offered plans.  If you have questions, speak to the human resource professional about your full range of benefits such as health, vision, dental, and life insurance.
If you need an individual policy, you should start by going to the Covered California website (coveredca.com).  At the website, you will be asked for your age, income and number of people in your family.  If your income is low (about $15,000 for an individual, or $31,000 for a family of four in 2013), you may qualify for Medi-Cal.
Medi-Cal is completely paid for by the government.  Subsided help with the cost for individual policies is available for those with higher incomes (up to $45,000 for an individual, or $94,000 for a family of four).
Here's more information to help the process go a bit more smoothly:
• Compare health plans. Carefully look over your options. That includes premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and out-of-pocket limits. Know what a provider network is and what happens if your doctor is outside the network. If you are married, see how your spouse's plan compares with yours.
• Assess and adjust. Not every year is the same. Just had a baby? Then, life and disability insurance may be a higher priority than in the past.  Not been taking advantage of low-cost options, yet have been paying a higher regular premium? Then, you might be better off with a higher deductible plan.
• Consider an HRA. Health reimbursement accounts can be particularly helpful in a year when you know you'll have some extra expenses. With an HRA, you can set aside pre-tax money in a separate account to use for medical expenses. The tax benefits can really add up.
• Other Key Points to Remember.  There is a penalty of $95 if you elect not to get covered for 2014.  The amount of the penalty will increase each year after that. Do go to the Covered California website and check out your options. You may be surprised by how affordable coverage is.  If you have questions, Covered California has a toll-free number you can call for help.
Finally, remember if you get seriously ill or injured in 2014, medical expenses can add up quickly and jeopardize you financially.  A health policy offers a lot of peace of mind and for 2014, preventative doctor visits are free.

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