Obamacare set to begin: Here's what you need to know
After years of debate and continuing strong opposition, the system of health exchanges that the Affordable Care Act establishes will go into effect Tuesday, with as many as 1.1 million people in New York state expected to buy health insurance in the new marketplace.
Under Obamacare, unprecedented changes to the state's health care system will happen, including an expansion of Medicaid, an easier method for lower-income individuals and families to get coverage, and a decrease in overall rates in the state, said Cheryl Fish-Parcham, deputy director of health policy at Families USA, a nonprofit health care advocacy organization.
"It really is historic," Fish-Parcham said. "This is the first time that most younger Americans have been able to get affordable coverage," she said, adding that New York state will see particularly lower health care prices compared to other states. (New York's insurance rates on the exchange will be 53% less expensive than current prices.)
Still, many New Yorkers said that they're baffled by what the act means and how it will affect them.
"I didn't know it starts [today]!" said Stacey Neofytides, 42, of Astoria.
"I wonder if my insurance is going to go up. How much is our employer going to cover and how much do I have to pay?" she asked. "Am I going to have to pay more? I don't know."
Jenny Posnak, 23, added that she only knew Obamacare was going into effect because it was lampooned on "Saturday Night Live" this past weekend.
"Well, my mother will cover my health care until I'm 26 years old," she said. "So, I'm not gonna worry about it till then. That's all I know."
Here’s what individuals and families need to know about Obamacare:
- Enrollment for new health coverage begins today and is open through March 31, 2014. After that it will be closed until January 2015, when it will reopen for a new enrollment period.
- Health care will be available to anyone under 65 who doesn’t have coverage from their job or Medicare/Medicaid.
- Medicaid will expand to anyone under 65 making less than 138% of the federal poverty level ($15,856 for individuals, $32,499 for a four-person family).
- Those making from 138% to 400% of the federal poverty level ($45,960 per individual or $94,200 for a four-person family) may be eligible for financial aid to purchase coverage in the marketplace.
- In 2014, those without coverage will have to pay a penalty of $95 or 1% of their income, whichever is higher. That price will rise to $325 (of 2% of income) in 2015, then to $695 (of 2.5% of income) in 2016. There will, however, be exceptions to the penalty, including people with religious objections, some Native Americans and those with incomes so low they couldn’t afford it, among others.
- Those who already have insurance don’t have to do anything, but may still buy insurance through the exchange.