Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act begins Tuesday. Even before people can start signing up, many Americans are confused about how the process works and what resources they can turn to before choosing a health care insurance plan that is best for them and their family.
Entering this new world of required health insurance coverage can seem overwhelming, but Dr. Carolyn McClanahan says it doesn't have to be. She recommends the uninsured start looking at healthcare.gov to see all of their options.
“For the people who want individual coverage, the new place to go is healthcare.gov,” said Dr. McClanahan.
The website asks people about their current coverage or if they are eligible for coverage through their employer. If the answer is “no” to both the website, it then takes the user to another page and asks the uninsured about possible dependents and other tax information.
“It asks if your household income is below $48,000. The reason it asks that is if you're a single person and you're income is under that, you'll be eligible for premium tax credits to help you pay for the insurance,” said Dr. McClanahan.
The website then takes users to a summary page based on the questions they’ve answered. There is even an online calculator on the page to give users an idea of what they will expect to pay for health insurance.
"It shows that I'm at 331 percent poverty level, so my unsubsidized premium is $2,405 dollars, which is how much I would have to pay,” said Dr. McClanahan.
From there people can look over the plans that are offered, plans that Dr. McClanahan said are organized under a medal structure.
“The four types of plans are bronze, silver, gold and platinum, and the only place they differ is how much they pay of your healthcare cost, with a maximum out-of-pocket,” said Dr. McClanahan. “People who are generally healthy should probably buy a bronze plan and put the money away for needed healthcare. People who use the doctor a lot probably would want to go with a platinum plan.”
Keep in mind that the exact price of plans will not be available until Oct. 1. Dr. McClanahan said the site’s information will still be helpful as people prepare and navigate through the first steps.
"We know this kind of system can work if we give it a try,” said Dr. McClanahan.
Those folks who do not have internet access can also get information by phone.
The number to call is 1-800-318-2596. Those phone lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Open enrollment starts Oct. 1 and ends Dec. 15.
There is a second enrollment period that starts Dec. 16 and gives people until March 31, 2014, to sign up or face a fine.