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The New Health Care Law and Affordable Insurance

Your questions answered

Q. My husband and I are in our late 50s and have a health insurance policy with a very high deductible that only covers catastrophic care. We pay high premiums and have no preventive-care coverage. Will the new law help us afford better health insurance? We are living on the edge—any more bills and we fall off.

A. The new law will lower the monthly cost of insurance in 2014 by providing tax credits or refunds to reduce the cost of your premiums. The credits are available to people whose income is in a certain range and who are eligible to buy coverage through the new state-run health insurance exchanges. You can buy basic comprehensive coverage through an exchange if you don’t have insurance or if your insurance is unaffordable. (How the exchanges work will be explained in an upcoming answer.)

Because it’s too early to know what the insurance premiums will be in 2014, we don’t know how much the credits are worth in dollars. We do know that the credits will be a percentage of your income, from 2 to 9.5 percent, if your income is under a certain level—the current range would include individuals with incomes of $14,403 to $43,320 and families of four with incomes of $29,326 to $88,200.

In addition, new consumer protections will take effect in September that can also help make coverage more affordable. For people who buy new group and individual policies, insurers cannot set lifetime limits on how much they will pay, cannot cancel policies after you get sick, and cannot exclude children with preexisting medical problems. And certain preventive screenings and vaccinations will be provided at a price that can’t be beat: free.

Susan Jaffe of Washington, D.C., covers health and aging issues and writes the Bulletin’s weekly column, Health Care Reform Explained: Your Questions Answered.

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