Obamacare FAQ

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Obamacare FAQ: What Happens If I Travel — or Move?

(Kuster & Wildhaber Photography/Flickr)

(Kuster & Wildhaber Photography/Flickr)

Editor’s note: For people buying on the individual market who want health insurance starting Jan. 1, the deadline to sign up is Monday, Dec. 23. We are running one post a day with questions and answers on the Affordable Care Act and Covered California until that deadline. Readers can also consult KQED’s Obamacare Guide, written specifically for Californians.

By Emily BazarCHCF Center for Health Reporting

About 130,000 Americans pick up and move somewhere else every single day, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates. And guess who are among the most mobile? We itchy Californians.

Perhaps you’re wondering what moving around has to do with Obamacare. Quite a lot, actually.

Your health plan options – and prices – vary by geography, and the Golden State is divided into 19 regions. Los Angeles is so large that it accounts for two regions, and that doesn’t even include the Inland Empire or Orange County.

Today, I’ll tell you what happens to your coverage when you travel or move, and whether you’ll be able to see a doctor when you’re in Boise, Berlin or even Berkeley. Continue reading

Obamacare FAQ: Are You Eligible for a Subsidy?

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Editor’s note: For people buying on the individual market who want health insurance starting Jan. 1, the deadline to sign up is Monday, Dec. 23. State of Health is running one post a day with questions and answers on both the Affordable Care Act and Covered California until that deadline. This installment comes from KQED’s Obamacare Guide, written specifically for Californians.

I’ve Heard the Government Is Offering Subsidies to Buy Insurance. Tell Me More.

You may qualify for a subsidy — in the form of a tax credit — to help you pay for health insurance. Tax credits are available on a sliding scale, according to your income. More than 2 million Californians will qualify for a tax credit.

If you earn between 138 and 400 percent of poverty ($15,850 – $46,000 for an individual; $32,500 – $94,200 for a family of four), you may qualify for a federal tax credit. The credit will be applied to the cost of your premium. You choose when you want to receive the credit. You might want to receive it monthly, so that you will pay less each month, or you may elect to receive it all at once when you file your taxes in the following year. Continue reading

Obamacare FAQ: Do Immigrants Qualify?

A view of the the Statue of Liberty. (Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

A view of the the Statue of Liberty. (Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: For people buying on the individual market who want health insurance starting Jan. 1, the deadline to sign up is Monday, Dec. 23. State of Health is running one post a day with questions and answers on both the Affordable Care Act and Covered California until that deadline. This installment comes from KQED’s Obamacare Guide, written specifically for Californians.

The headline for immigrants is that if you are “lawfully present” (the legal term of art), you are eligible for the benefits — and responsibilities — of the Affordable Care Act. This means you may qualify for subsidies to purchase insurance, but it also means you may have to pay a penalty if you do not carry health insurance. While naturalized citizens and green card holders may be aware of how Obamacare affects them, for other immigrants, access to these kinds of benefits is new. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for any benefits of the ACA. They do not have to pay a penalty if they do not carry health insurance.

I Am in the U.S. Legally, But I Do Not Have a Green Card. I Am Here under a Different Kind of Visa. What Does the Health Law Mean to Me?

U.S. law includes a wide variety of ways in which immigrants can be lawfully present, even if they are not green card holders. Continue reading

Obamacare FAQ: Your Questions Answered on KQED’s Forum

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Just a week to go. The deadline to enroll in health insurance starting Jan. 1 is next Monday, Dec. 23.

This morning on KQED’s Forum, Emily Bazar, of the Center for Health Reporting, and I answered listener questions about enrolling in insurance via Covered California.

Host Michael Krasny started by asking us some of the basics. Yes, you can still buy coverage after Dec. 23; open enrollment runs until Mar. 31, 2014. After that, if you don’t have health insurance, you will likely need to pay a penalty, $95 per adult or 1 percent of your income, whichever is greater. Continue reading

Obamacare FAQ: Determining Your Family Size

Family size of four? Only your federal tax return knows for sure. (Mikey G Ottawa/Flickr)

Family size of four? Only your federal tax return knows for sure. (Mikey G Ottawa/Flickr)

Editor’s note: For people buying on the individual market who want health insurance starting Jan. 1, the deadline to sign up is Monday, Dec. 23. We are running one post a day with questions and answers on the Affordable Care Act and Covered California until that deadline. Readers can also consult KQED’s Obamacare Guide, written specifically for Californians.

By Emily BazarCHCF Center for Health Reporting

Q: I have been on the Covered California website and the calculator asks for family size, which I presume means the taxpayer plus number of dependents claimed on federal tax forms. If a consumer claims non-child family members (like aging parents) do they count as part of family size?

A: What’s a family? In our shifting social landscape, it could be a single-parent household, a domestic partnership, a same-sex marriage, an unwed cohabitating couple and more.

But when it comes to Obamacare, as Rich from Santa Ana notes, it’s all about taxes.

As if Obamacare needed something more to test its popularity. But let’s face it, the law – officially known as the Affordable Care Act – relies heavily on our tax data to determine program eligibility and financial assistance, and also changes some tax rules. Continue reading

Obamacare FAQ: What Are Options for College Students and Young Adults?

(Mike Adams/Flickr)

(Mike Adams/Flickr)

Editor’s note: For people buying on the individual market who want health insurance starting Jan. 1, the deadline to sign up is Monday, Dec. 23. We are running one post a day with questions and answers on the Affordable Care Act and Covered California until that deadline. Readers can also consult KQED’s Obamacare Guide, written specifically for Californians.

By Emily Bazar, CHCF Center for Health Reporting

Q: My youngest child is 21 and graduated from college in May. My other daughter is 24 and is still a college student in Stockton. What are my options with them under the Affordable Care Act?

A: The good news, Simona, is that your daughters may have several options and their coverage could fall into place easily.

Or not.

Let’s cross our fingers and begin with “could fall into place easily.”

Starting in January, most Americans will be required to carry a minimum level of health insurance or pay a tax penalty. That includes your daughters and other young adults 18 and over. Continue reading

Obamacare FAQ: Will You Qualify for Medi-Cal?

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Editor’s note: For people buying on the individual market who want health insurance starting Jan. 1, the deadline to sign up is Monday, Dec. 23. We will run one post a day with questions and answers on the Affordable Care Act and Covered California until that deadline. Readers can also consult KQED’s Obamacare Guide, written specifically for Californians.

By Emily Bazar, CHCF Center for Health Reporting

While more than 80,000 people have enrolled in coverage through Covered California, an additional 140,000 people appear to be eligible for Medi-Cal, the state’s version of the Medicaid program for low-income residents. It’s part of the Medicaid expansion, which is expected to include people of all stripes, from young adults and college students to single, older men. It could include you.

Q: How will Medi-Cal eligibility be expanded? My 37-year-old, single daughter is  currently not eligible.

A: Medi-Cal provides medical services to more than 8 million low-income Californians. The expansion is expected to make roughly 1.4 million state residents newly eligible.

Will Jack of San Clemente’s daughter be among them? I don’t know for sure, but at least one detail he shared sounds promising.

Under the expansion, the income threshold to qualify for Medi-Cal will go up to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. This year, that computes to about $15,800 for an individual and $32,500 for a family of four.

Perhaps even more momentous (pay attention here, Jack), the program will be open to childless adults, who were previously ineligible. This is where the college students and single, older males come in, and single, 37-year-old females, too.

A few other important details: Continue reading

Obamacare FAQ: Can I Drop My Employer-Offered Insurance?

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Editor’s note: For people buying on the individual market who want health insurance starting Jan. 1, the deadline to sign up is Monday, Dec. 23. We will run one post a day with questions and answers on the Affordable Care Act and Covered California until that deadline. Today’s installment comes from the Center for Health Reporting’s Ask Emily column. Readers can also consult KQED’s Obamacare Guide, written specifically for Californians.

By Emily Bazar

Q: If my husband’s employer offers health care insurance but it is unaffordable, where does that leave us? Will we qualify for help under Obamacare or will we be out in the cold? We make about $45,000 annually.

A: Apparently, lots of you dislike the health insurance options offered by your employers.

Carrie from the Sacramento suburbs submitted this question, but I’ve received a crush of similar queries from all over the state.

Your most common complaint? The coverage is too expensive. The runner-up: The plans your employers offer don’t cover certain benefits, doctors or hospitals. Continue reading

For Legal Immigrants, Obamacare Has Options for Aging Parents

A view of the the Statue of Liberty. (Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

A view of the the Statue of Liberty. (Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Mohan Iyer has been in a bind. He’s lived in the U.S. since he came here for college from India in 1980. He ultimately got a job, a green card and became a citizen in 1994. Most of his siblings live here now, too.

After his father passed away two years ago, Iyer and his siblings have wanted their mother to move here. But there’s one big problem: she is effectively barred from any kind of reliable health insurance.

“Health care has been a big issue,” said Iyer, who is 50 and lives in Menlo Park.

New immigrants of any age can purchase health insurance on Covered California
That’s because new immigrants over age 65 are not eligible for Medicare. For legal immigrants like Iyer, who are people of working age, the impossibility of obtaining health insurance for their parents has been a barrier in their hopes of moving aging parents or grandparents to the U.S.

Americans over 65 tend not to worry much about health insurance, because of Medicare, the government insurance program for the elderly and the disabled. But while Medicare is available to virtually all citizens, starting at age 65, immigrants legally present in the U.S. for less than five years are not eligible.

And because of the very existence of Medicare, private insurance companies generally do not offer health insurance plans for those over 65. “There are health insurance options,” Iyer said, “but these are usually catastrophic traveler’s insurance. They usually have a very high deductible and they’re expensive.”

They also tend to exclude pre-existing conditions, he said. Continue reading