November 01, 2021
If you’re part of the one in three Americans who are uninsured or don’t have access to an employer-sponsored healthcare plan, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may be able to help. The ACA allows you to buy health insurance on a public marketplace, with premiums based on your income and family size, which may be helpful for freelancers, anyone between jobs, and those whose employers don’t offer insurance coverage. Read on for more tips and tricks to navigating the ACA in 2021 and beyond.
What is the ACA?
Enacted over a decade ago, the ACA is designed to reduce the number of Americans who lack health insurance by making plans available for purchase on a public marketplace. Prior to the ACA, many adults were forced to either self-insure, qualify for Medicaid, work for an employer that offered subsidized health insurance, or pay the full cost of an employer plan out of pocket. With the ACA, people who don’t have access to an employer health plan (or who aren’t happy with their employer-sponsored plan’s terms) may be able to purchase their own policy with the coverages and terms they prefer.
When can you enroll in an ACA health insurance plan?
Although the ACA is administered on a state-by-state basis, there are some rules that apply to all. If you lose your job, get married, have a child, or have another “qualifying event,” you may be able to enroll in ACA coverage within a certain time period of this event. For everyone else, including those who are already enrolled in an ACA plan, “open enrollment” for 2022 begins on November 1, 2021. This open enrollment period allows you to switch plans or enroll in a new plan to cover yourself and any eligible family members.
What ACA plans are available?
The ACA plans that are available to you depend on your household income, your state of residence, and your family size, among other factors. In many cases, especially for those with large families or relatively low incomes, there may be state subsidies available that may significantly reduce the cost of your health plan. In other cases, you may opt for a “Bronze” plan instead of a “Silver” or “Gold” to save some money in premium costs.
What Happens If You Don’t Have an ACA Plan?
If you’re uninsured—that is, you don’t have health insurance through the ACA, an employer, or Medicaid—you could be responsible for the full out-of-pocket cost of your healthcare. If you contract a serious or long-term illness, like cancer, the cost of your treatment could total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per month. Because of these high costs, having access to affordable health care is important.
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