This Article is a re-publication from December 23, 2013
What Exactly is The Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare?”
The federal Affordable Care Act of 2014 (ACA), also known as “Obamacare,” was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010. Basically, this law:
- protects consumers — for example, by requiring insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions and preventing them from arbitrarily canceling your coverage
- requires most U.S. citizens and legal residents to have health insurance or, if they don’t, to pay a tax penalty
- allows states to expand Medicaid coverage
- creates marketplaces (sometimes called “exchanges”) for affordable health insurance plans, and
- establishes new funding for public health and prevention.
As a result of the law, new health plans will be available for individuals, families, and small businesses. You can compare plans and providers, and choose the coverage that’s best for you.
So, What Happens if I Don’t Enroll?
Despite what you may have heard, you can’t be arrested or thrown in jail if you don’t have health insurance in New York. You can, however, be forced to pay a tax penalty if you aren’t enrolled in a health insurance plan by March 31, 2014. To avoid the penalty, you must either obtain qualified health coverage or prove your eligibility for an exception.
So, if March 31 is the Deadline, Then What is this December 23, 2013, Deadline I Keep Hearing About?
The Monday, December 23 deadline is the last day you can enroll in order to qualify for insurance beginning January 1, 2014 (if you don’t already have insurance). The March 31, 2014 deadline is the date by which the government wants to see you have finally enrolled in one of its plans.
Even if you do sign up for a plan by December 23, remember that you must pay your first month’s premium on time for coverage to begin. The payment deadline depends on the state and the insurance company, but most insurers have agreed to extend the former January 1 payment deadline to January 10.
But if you miss the December 23 deadline or don’t pay your first month’s premium on time, you can still get coverage for 2014 — but it will begin later than January 1.
Well, How Much is This Going to Cost Me? Because I’m Broke!
What you’ll pay for an Obamacare plan depends on five things:
- The level of coverage you choose
- Whether you qualify for a subsidy
- Where you live in New York
- Your age
- Whether you smoke
You can learn the final costs for specific plans, including whether you qualify for subsidies or low-cost care programs, by applying for insurance online at NY State of Health.
What Paperwork or Information Will I Need to Apply?
- Your Social Security number
- Your birthdate
- Proof of Income (pay stubs, W-2 forms or wage and tax exemptins)
- Policy numbers for any current health insurance you might already have
- Information about any health insurance offered to you and/or your family from your employer
But I Already Have Health Insurance Through My Job. Do I Need to do Anything?
If you have health insurance through your job, you don’t need to do anything. Some new benefits may be added to your existing plan with this new act. But you do not need to take any action for this to go into effect.
I am a Small Business Owner and Entrepreneur with a Small Staff. What if I can’t Afford to Offer Health Insurance to My Employees?
As part of the NY State of Health, a number of community-based organizations have been designated as “navigators” who are trained and certified by New York State to offer free and independent assistance in helping you choose a plan, enroll your employees and claim tax credits, if you qualify.
These navigators are available to come to your business at no charge and are also available to meet with individual employees during work hours or after hours to help them enroll in the exchange.
To find a navigator in your area, email Community Health Advocates at [email protected] or call 888-614-5400.
Okay, So I Think I’m Ready to Start the Process. How do I Sign up for Obamacare in New York?
The easiest way to sign up for a health plan under the Affordable Care Act is to go to the health insurance exchange for New York at NY State of Health. This is where you can learn in greater detail about the various health insurance options available to you under Obamacare.
If you see a plan you like, you’ll be guided through the enrollment process online. If you prefer to apply with a paper application, call the NY State of Health customer service center or contact an in-perrson assister using the information just below.
You might not see any mention of Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act when you visit the exchange website, but rest assured you’ve landed in the right place. The exchange was established solely for the purpose of informing consumers about the Affordable Care Act and providing plans under the law.
What if I still have questions, and I need to speak to someone?
Online chat. To chat with a support representative, go to “Get Help” on the NY State of Health home page and click Chat With Us.
Telephone support. The toll-free number for NY State of Health is 855-355-5777. If you are hearing impaired, please call the TTY line: 800-662-1220.
Chat and telephone support are available Monday-Friday from 11:00am to 11:00pm (EST) and on Saturday from 12:00pm to 4:00pm (EST).
This video from NY State of Health provides a sneak peek at the application process for individuals and families.