Navigating Your Insurance Options

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Here Are Your Resources

The online enrollment process for people in Nebraska and Iowa will be handled through Here are some key pages:

All the Details

For those who like the fine print, the full text of the Affordable Health Care Act is available in the links below. The first is the Certified Full Text. The second, the Reconciliation Act, contains the amendments.

Grab your shopping list. Online insurance markets are open - the gateway to the health care revolution. Here's some help.

The new month comes to town with the hotly debated Affordable Health Care Act in tow - the so-called Obamacare plan to improve insurance coverage for Americans. If you want coverage by January 1, you need to sign up by December 15.

The goal is quality coverage for millions of uninsured people in the United States. The reality will reveal itself in the midst of political dust-ups that have been churning across the country.

The Marketplaces will offer individuals and their families a choice of private health plans resembling what workers at major companies already get. The government will help many middle-class households pay their premiums, while low-income individuals will be referred to safety-net programs they might qualify for.

Most people will go online to pick a plan. Counselors will be available at call centers and in local communities, too. Some areas will get a storefront operation or kiosks at the mall. Translation to Spanish and other languages spoken by immigrants will be provided.

The critical information you'll need to research available plans and enroll can be found in the gray Resources box on the right.

When you pick a plan, you'll no longer have to worry about getting turned down or charged more because of a medical problem. If you're a woman, you can't be charged a higher premium because of gender. Middle-aged people and those nearing retirement will get a price break: They can't be charged more than three times what younger customers pay, compared with six times or seven times today.

But there are prices to pay and changes to absorb.

Plan Highlights

Starting January 1, 2014, when coverage takes effect in the Marketplaces, virtually everyone in the country will be required by law to have health insurance or face fines. The mandate is meant to get everybody paying into the insurance pool.

Among those who are being strongly urged to act on this are the 3,200 policyholders in the Nebraska Comprehensive Health Insurance Pool. Their CHIP coverage will end on January 1.

Victor Kensler, Chairman of the Board for the NE CHIP, told WOWT 6 News, “We are encouraging all of the policyholders that are covered currently under the risk pool to do so (enroll) by November 1st.”

NE CHIP is the program that was established to provide health insurance to Nebraskans who were not able to get insurance at an affordable price (or without restrictions) because of their medical conditions.

The new law of the land is forcing the Nebraska CHIP to shut down December 31, but Mr. Kensler is optimistic about the alternative that will be available in the form of the new insurance system.

“I think they will find lesser premium," he said. "I am confident that when they go to the Exchange, they will be able to get coverage. While they may not consider it as affordable as they may have hoped, they will be able to save some.”

Any CHIP policyholders who have questions about their coverage administered by Coventry Health Care, can contact Customer Service at 855-247-5201.

While the new law is called the Affordable Care Act, some people in the new markets might experience sticker shock over their premiums. Smokers will face a financial penalty. Younger, well-to-do people who haven't seen the need for health insurance may not be eligible for income-based assistance with their premiums.

Many people, even if they get government help, will find that health insurance still doesn't come cheaply. Monthly premiums will be less than the mortgage or rent, but maybe more than a car loan. The coverage, however, will be more robust than most individual plans currently sold.

Some Hypotheticals
Consider a hypothetical family of four making $60,000 and headed by a 40-year-old. They'll be eligible for a government tax credit of $7,193 toward their annual premium of $12,130. But they'd still have to pay $4,937, about 8 percent of their income, or about $410 a month.

A lower-income family would get a better deal from the government's sliding-scale subsidies.

Consider a similar four-person family making $35,000. They'd get a $10,742 tax credit toward the $12,130 annual premium. They'd have to pay $1,388, about 4 percent of their income, or about $115 a month.

The figures come from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation's online Health Reform Subsidy Calculator. But while the government assistance is called a tax credit and computed through the income tax system, the money doesn't come to you in a refund. It goes directly to insurers.

Congress passed President Barack Obama's health care law in March 2010, and the overhaul has since survived 37 attempts by Republicans in the House of Representatives to eliminate, defund or partly scale it back.

The law also survived a more substantial test last year when the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality.

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