In spite of the government shutdown targeted to stop it, Obamacare will take a major step forward today. For the first time, millions of uninsured Americans will be able to purchase affordable health care on one of dozens of healthcare exchanges. The opening of the healthcare exchanges will be an important tool in meeting the health needs of people of color. Uninsured rates for Latinos are up to three times that for whites. For blacks, it's up to twice as high compared to whites. The ability to sign up on affordable plans is welcomed by many.
Government-operated websites, with an interface much like those used to buy airline tickets or book car rentals, will list available health insurance products. Plans purchased on the exchanges will kick in on January 1, 2014 and sign up closes on March 31, 2014. The launch of healthcare exchanges will not be affected by a government shutdown.
Since more than seven out of 10 people eligible for help under the law don't know it, here are some key points to understand about getting the healthcare that you, your friends, and your family might need:
Health insurance is mandatory. Under the Affordable Care Act, all Americans citizens and certain immigrants must sign up for health insurance. Failure to do so will result in an annual tax penalty.
Visit healthcare.gov to determine which plan is best for you. Enter basic information such as age, state of residence, and income in order to get the options available to you. Results will vary by state, and prices will vary depending plans, which range from the bare-boned Bronze option to the feature-rich Platinum plans.
For millions, coverage will be free or involve minimum costs. Given the combination of the health care law's extension of Medicaid to the working poor and/or subsidies for individuals making up to $46,000, monthly healthcare costs for many could cost less than a daily cup of coffee. As Phil Galewitz of Kaiser Health News points out, subsides for a family of four in certain states like Florida could cost only $30 a month.
Spread the word and explore your options.