Affordable Care Act

Oct 1, 2013 6:59 PM by Ryan Haarer

Affordable Healtcare: Understanding the insurance exchanges

TUCSON- The Affordable Care Act has been subject to contentious debate over cost and the individual mandate. But, like it or not it's here and if you are uninsured you'll need to sign up or pay a fine.

I am very worried. I don't know the stipulation of how all that goes," said Amanda, a Tucsonan worried about the change.

Starting today officials say you're best bet is to just start looking. Open enrollment runs through March and the deadline to sign up for coverage in 2014 is December 15th.

"It will be a wide range of choices. When you compare Arizona to other states that have been analyzed so far it looks like Arizona has the fourth lowest premiums of any state in the country," said Daniel Derksen, professor at the University of Arizona's College of Public Health.

With ten insurers competing for your business in Arizona, the best place to start is healthcare.gov, a comprehensive site breaking down what different insurers can offer for your specific situation. The exchange options are categorized as bronze, silver, gold or platinum. Bronze offers the highest deductible and lowest premium and platinum with the highest premium and lowest deductible.

"I think it's good to insure more people but I am worried about what the cost will be," said another Tucsonan, Matt, curious about how this will play out.

The cost will depend on your annual income and size of your household with younger people paying more. Parents can keep their kids covered up until age 26.

"It still would be less expensive for an uninsured individual, age 27, to pay the tax penalty rather than get coverage but you're rolling the dice. You're hoping you don't get sick, you're hoping you don't have to go in," said Derksen.

People under 30 and children may be eligible for a low cost catastrophic plan. But, more low income folks should be covered under the expansion of Medicaid.

"The expansion of Medicaid as allowed under the Affordable Care Act adds about another 60,000 uninsured Arizonans. So for those individuals, they can go all the way up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level," said Derksen.

That's about $32,000 dollars for a family of four. The healthcare.gov website will direct you to the proper sign up site if you are eligible.

People on Medicare will not be affected by the Affordable Care Act, if you have insurance through your employer you will not be affected and many current plans will be grandfathered in.

The mandate for being uninsured starts at $95 in 2014, by 2016 that amount jumps to $695. So, 1.3 million uninsured Arizonans will need to start looking for a plan. Also, enrollment in Spanish has been delayed for a couple weeks. 39% of the uninsured in this state are Hispanic.

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