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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Obamacare 101: Your Questions Answered

Starting Oct. 1, Americans will be able to buy private health insurance through public exchanges created under Obamacare. (401(K) 2013/Flickr)

Starting Oct. 1, Americans will be able to buy private health insurance through public exchanges created under Obamacare. (401(K) 2013/Flickr)

On October 1st, next Tuesday, health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act will be open for enrollment.

Last week we asked listeners for their questions and you’ve sent them. We heard questions about how to enroll, what it means for people on Medicare and what the coverage will cost.

Jay Hancock of Kaiser Health News joined us to provide some answers. Since everyone’s situation is a little different, he also shared two pieces of general advice:

  1. Obamacare might not affect you at all. “If they’re already covered by Medicare, by Medicaid, or if they have a health plan through their employer, they probably don’t have to worry about these health care marketplaces that are opening next week.”
  2. HealthCare.gov is your friend. Since everyone’s needs are case specific, the best thing to do is visit that website and use the tools there to determine whether to buy insurance through the exchange, and determine which plan on your state’s exchange is right for you. You can also reach out to insurance health insurance agents and insurance brokers for advice and clarification.

Please feel free to add your own questions in the comments section below. We’re planning to do a follow-up segment next week.

3 questions answered

Don Mayer, a veteran, gets VA benefits and is eligible for Medicare. Should he look into the exchanges?

“He doesn’t have to think about the exchanges,” Hancock said. “As you know there is what’s called an individual mandate that requires people to have health coverage. But VA benefits, Tricare benefits, Medicaid are all considered minimum benefits under the law, and you don’t have to go shopping in the exchanges.”

Loren Charter says he and his wife have different incomes, but file a joint tax return. What income should they claim on their health care applications?

“They should go through the options on this software,” Hancock said. “The [Affordable Care Act] is very specific about what income applies to determining whether or not you get the tax credits, and it does include social security benefits, it does include taxable IRA income, and of course, includes wages, salaries, etc.”

Robyn Josephs is a 65-year-old single woman from North Carolina who says she’s not eligible for Medicaid in her state. She thinks she’ll need to buy health insurance from the exchange. But even the least costly health insurance option in the North Carolina exchange is unaffordable for her. Does she qualify for a subsidy?

“It’s possible, and she should seek out what are called navigators, who are helping steer people through this, which you can find at your local community health center and other non-profits,” Hancock said. “In a lot of states like North Carolina, Medicaid is not being expanded. She ordinarily would apply for the Medicaid expansion, and qualify for the Medicaid expansion, which is in the Affordable Care Act … but if she is 65, she should be eligible for Medicare.”

To hear more of Jay Hancock’s answers, listen to the audio at the top of this page. 

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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