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Is Obamacare Free?

On Halloween my husband was laid off. His job never gave us warm fuzzies in the job security department ever since two years ago when the company was bought out by another that buys companies and sells them at a profit. Over the last two years various people have been let go and fired, and Paul made it through all of those. So even though we planned for the worst (i.e. maintained an emergency fund [1]), we did not expect it to happen. Let’s face it: you or your spouse losing a job is always a bit of a shock.

One of the things that I took for granted is Paul’s health insurance plan. I quit my job this February to pursue writing and blogging full-time [2], and so now that Paul lost his job we will be losing our plan. In fact, we have until November 30th to decide what to do as that is when we lose our coverage. And quite frankly, I am not happy about being thrust upon the confusing health care market right now.

Obamacare and Health Care

Unfortunately, many of you are in the same boat as us. In fact, my father and several friends are part of the percentage of Americans who are being dropped by their health insurance plans at the end of this year. There is a lot of uncertainty among all of us. In my quest to find suitable health insurance for us, as well as to clarify Obamacare [3] for everyone, I thought I would start by addressing a question readers are asking.

Is Obamacare Free?

In a word, no. Obamacare is not free.

I’m not talking about whether or not Obamacare costs taxpayers money (it does) or the politics behind it. Rather, I am talking about whether or not it costs money to sign up for a health care plan under Obamacare.

Despite what you may hear in the news by angry political figures on both sides, the Affordable Health Care Act does not run like health care plans in European countries where taxes are used to offset the cost of health care, making it free for everyone.

There is a new health insurance premium tax credit [4] that adjusts the premiums you will pay as a percentage of your household income, but it is not free. Based on your income you will pay between 2% and 9.5% of household income for annual premiums if you qualify for the tax credit.

Are There Any “Free” Components to Obamacare?

There are free components to health care plans under the Affordable Health Care Act [5] (though yes, there are quotes around the word “free” as you are still paying your premium amounts). These include (as long as your plan has not been grandfathered in):

  • Free Preventative Care: All plans need to include free preventative care [5] for things like well woman visits and immunizations.
  • Free Screenings: Various free screenings for adults and children are now required to be offered by health insurance plans. These include blood pressure, cholesterol, and depression.
  • Free Counseling: It is now required by law that health insurance plans offer free counseling for various issues, including diet, obesity, alcohol misuse, HIV, etc.
  • Free Certain Medication and Supplements: You cannot get these on your own, but rather through your doctor. They include free aspirin to prevent cardiovascular disease for men and women of certain ages and free folic acid supplements for pregnant women.

Our Immediate Steps

Paul and I do not know how Obamacare health plans stack up to our current one (in both price and quality), but we do know how our own health plan of five years works. As such, we are focusing efforts on scheduling important checkups and other appointments we’ve been putting off so that we can pay for it through our old health insurance plan. This includes taking advantage of our annual $300 benefit for eyeglasses (we both wear glasses), a cavity or two being filled at the dentists’, a physical exam, dermatology appointment, etc. It’s better to get these over with before losing coverage than to risk a rise in costs on our next plan (again, I do not know if our costs would go up or down, but we like to plan for the worst).

We are in a bit of a unique situation, as under this law, minimum essential coverage also includes COBRA [6]. So perhaps we won’t have to figure out the Obamacare system. However, we will definitely be choosing something at the end of this month. This is because not only do we not want to risk going without health insurance, but we also do not want to pay the penalty for being uninsured come January 2014 [7].

Have you lost your health care insurance? If not, has anything on your current plan (type, coverage, premium cost, etc.) changed? Any luck with signing up for an Obamacare plan?

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