For people who are uninsured or buy their coverage
- The health care law makes it easier to buy health insurance: People without insurance, small businesses and self-employed people can buy private health insurance though a health insurance exchange. Exchanges allow people to compare plan benefits and costs, and purchase coverage. State-based exchanges must begin offering insurance by 2014. If you are uninsured and eligible for coverage through an exchange — but do not purchase insurance — you will be subject to a penalty.
- The health care law creates a set of standard benefits: All health insurance plans in the exchanges must offer a basic set of benefits that include medical, mental health, prescription drug and rehabilitation services. The standard benefits will make it easier for you to compare benefits and costs, and then pick among several levels of coverage to best fit your needs.
- The health care law makes health coverage more affordable: Starting in 2014, if you earn less than about $59,000 as a couple or about $44,000 as an individual, you may be eligible for tax credits to help you pay for health insurance purchased through an exchange. (These income levels are based on the 2011 federal poverty rate and are subject to change; higher income levels apply in Alaska and Hawaii.)
- The health care law expands eligibility for Medicaid: Starting in 2014, all uninsured children, parents and childless adults who live on less than about $15,000 in income, or about $21,000 for a couple, will qualify for Medicaid coverage. (These income levels are based on the 2011 federal poverty rate and are subject to change; higher income levels apply in Alaska and Hawaii.)
- The health care law covers people with pre-existing conditions: If you have a pre-existing condition, have been denied insurance because of your health and have been uninsured for at least six months, you may be able to purchase health coverage through a Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) in your state. The PCIPs operate until the exchanges and pre-existing condition protections begin in 2014.
- The health care law extends coverage for young adults: The law lets you include your children on your family health insurance plan until they reach age 26. (Check with your employer or health plan about keeping or adding an adult child to your plan.)