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Affordable Care Act: 4 Ways to Get Health Insurance and Picking the Right One

Healthcare Personal Finance
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What is the one thing you want to own, but hope you never use?

That would be health insurance!

In fact, the average three-day hospital stay costs $30,000, which would completely wipe out most families’ savings accounts and/or children’s college funds.

Buying health insurance is an important way to protect you and your family in the event of injury or illness, plus it is the new law!

If you didn’t know that fact, you are not alone.

42% of Americans are unaware that most of us must have health care insurance starting on January 1, 2014 per the Affordable Care ActTweet this.

45% know nothing at all about health insurance marketplaces (also known as exchanges).

Let’s take a closer look into the different health insurance coverage options to help clear up some of the confusion.

Four Ways to Get Health Insurance

Employer: Continue to purchase insurance through your, or your spouse’s, employer. The vast majority of those who go this route will see little to no change in coverage and will not be required to purchase through a marketplace.

On your own: You can purchase directly from an insurance company, with the help of a broker or agent, or through an online service.

Marketplaces: You can buy health insurance yourself through your state’s marketplace.

Government-sponsored plans: Those who qualify for government programs such as Medicare or Medicaid can enroll in these plans to get coverage.

Using the Health Insurance Marketplaces


Anyone who’s ever made a purchase through Amazon, or booked a vacation through Expedia or Travelocity, has used a “marketplace” to compare and purchase a product or service.

Health insurance marketplaces will operate in a similar way.

Marketplace coverage will typically include:

  • Emergency services
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services
  • Preventive and wellness services
  • Chronic disease management
  • Pediatric services, including oral and vision care


You can apply for insurance in your state’s marketplace starting on October 1, 2013, with coverage starting on January 1, 2014, (if you purchase by December 15, 2013). Open enrollment for 2014 ends March 31, 2014.

Patrick Blair, the CMO from Wellpoint said, “There’s a lot to learn about the exchanges – the health insurance marketplace will change health care as we know it. It’s not a maze, but you may need a map.”


You may be able to get help paying for your health insurance costs if you buy coverage in a marketplace. 

Picking the Right Health Insurance Plan

It makes sense to have insurance by January 1, 2014, because in addition to the tax penalty, even a simple broken arm with no surgery, could cost $5,000+.

So it’s a “pay me now or pay me later” prospect. There’s no need to pay more than necessary for health insurance.

Just be sure to use the following checklist:

  • Visit your state’s marketplace. Review the different levels, or plans, and compare the cost and coverage of each.
  • Make a list of questions to ask before you buy a plan, including: Can I keep my current doctor and does the plan cover emergencies in another state or country when I’m traveling? Does my plan cover my prescription drugs?
  • Visit your state’s marketplace. Review the different levels, or plans, and compare the cost and coverage of each.
  • Review your budget to decide how much you can pay for health insurance and rework your finances to make sure you are not overextended.
  • Decide if you want adult dental and vision coverage. Pediatric dental and vision may already be a part of your plan in 2014; you may want to decide if you will add adult coverage as well.
  • Stay informed by going to Healthcare.gov and TaxAct to find updates on health care reform and taxes.

Be Wise through Preventative Health Practices

The best protection against rising medical costs is still prevention. – Tweet this.

So consider getting involved in a healthy workout program or plug into a support group to regain control of your health such as Weight Watchers.

These kinds of support groups can provide the opportunity to change your life, not only physically but also emotionally and even financially, as you can see in the health-wealth connection found in the book Lean Body, Fat Wallet.

Find out if your plan includes “health and wellness initiatives” and financial incentives.

For example, many health insurance companies offer a financial break on an annual premium if the insured can prove that they have attended a health and fitness center three times a week.

What are you doing to comply with the Affordable Care Act?

Photo credit: Lekke via photopin cc

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