by Barbara Nevins Taylor
If you’re an artist, a freelancer or a young adult over 27 you’re just the kind of person the Obama administration is counting on to sign up for Obamacare. Billy Allen, a 31-year-old New York artist, fits the bill. He doesn’t have insurance now. He says, “I can’t afford the monthly payment.” Billy is healthy, but he knows that anything can happen and plans to sign up for Obamacare as soon as he can. “I ride my bike everywhere, and I’ll still be scared. But I won’t be that scared,” he laughs. “And if I get sick hopefully it won’t be as much of a hassle,” he says.
The Department of Health and Humans Services projects that 7 million Americans will tune out the political noise in Washington and sign up for the Affordable Care Act by March 31, 2014. But to make the system work about 2.5 million young, relatively healthy people need to join to offset the cost of those who use the system a lot.
They might take heart from the people we met at the Greenwich House Pottery in Manhattan where Billy Allen works and teaches. Michael Benjamin, a freelancer, expects Obamacare to lower his monthly payment significantly. He pays more than $300 a month and after an appendectomy he says, “I wound up with $10,000 left over in medical bills even though I had insurance.” Benjamin says, “I plan to sign up immediately, so that I don’t screw my parents if something happens to me.” He explains that he worries that others might have to take care of bills that he can’t afford to pay. “I think that would be a terrible thing to do to my family and friends. Everyone who loves me would step in to help out. And I don’t ever want that to happen.”
Michael Anzelone, a freelance costume designer was covered by his union when he worked steadily. But the past few years were tough. He says, “I’ve lived with no coverage. I got Freelancers and I’m still struggling to pay $450 a month. Even so he says, “My prescription co-pay for my high cholesterol medication was $139 with the plan. So I’m hoping the Obamacare will offer some subsidies.”
There are subsidies in the form of tax credits and these artists and others can take advantage of a menu of options to make the purchase of this insurance attractive and affordable. It’s slightly complicated and divides insurance into plans for Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. The plans all offer the basic healthcare required under the Affordable Care Act, but you pay less monthly and get less for the Bronze then you as you go up the metal scale.
Smokers will have to pay the price of higher premiums, but there are tax subsidies available for everyone who falls into low income categories. It’s easy to find out if you qualify for a subsidy by using the healthcare calculator in our post Obamacare Payment Assistance.
One of the best things about Obamacare is that you can’t be rejected by an insurer if you have a pre-existing condition and insurance companies can’t rule you out based upon your prior medical and claims history.
Insurance offerings are slightly different in every state and it’s a good idea to check to see what’s offered in your area. Thirty-six states are participating by setting up healthcare exchanges, or marketplaces and most have good information on their websites. Most states have a network of counselors, or “navigators” who can help you figure out the best plan.
If your state is one that’s opted out, you can arrange your insurance through the federal government’s website Healthcare.gov. It’s very easy to understand and there are also counselors available to help.
Billy Allen is ready for the help and ready to go, “I’m looking forward to enrolling and hopefully making the system work because there’s been so much bluster from a certain group of people in Washington to try to make this fail, that in some ways, I feel a sense of patriotism to enroll and hopefully build a strong system of people with common coverage.”