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Your Affordable Health Insurance Options


Affordable Health Insurance

Access to good medical care is critical to protect yourself and your family. Unfortunately, that care often comes with a hefty price tag, which makes it all the more essential to understand your affordable health insurance options. Most Americans get health insurance in one of two ways: their employer or from the health care marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Here's what you need to know about each option:

Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance

If your employer has 50 or more full-time employees, they are required by law to offer an affordable health care option. But even if they aren't a large company, many employers still offer reasonably affordable health care as a perk to their employees.

When you're hired, human resources should let you know about your health insurance options. You should compare the company's plan against private plans and those found in the ACA marketplaces described below. This way, you will have all the information you'll need to determine which option works best for you and your budget.

You should also make sure to ask if your employer offers medical spending accounts with pretax benefits. This means your employer deducts money from your paycheck before taxes kick in, and that money is deposited into an account called a Health Savings Account (HSA) or a Flexible Spending Account (FSA). This gives you tax-free money to spend on approved health-related expenses.

If you decide to purchase your employer-sponsored health coverage, you'll have a certain amount deducted from your paycheck each month. If you have a full-time job, this option is often both the most affordable and a hassle-free way to get health insurance.

Government-Sponsored Coverage

If you're unemployed, self-employed, a part-time employee, or work for a company that doesn't offer health coverage, you'll need to get health insurance through a health insurance marketplace found at or a private company. The government-run marketplaces should be your first stop when looking for affordable health insurance options, as there are income-based subsidies available to reduce the cost for individuals and families.

There are two important things to remember about the process of getting health insurance through the exchange: the open enrollment period and state-offered programs.

The Open Enrollment Period

Open enrollment is the time period when people enroll in health insurance. Open enrollment takes place every fall, between November 1 and January 31. This is when you have the best chance of finding a subsidized health insurance option that meets your budget. It's possible to sign up for health insurance at other times of the year, but you can only do so because of a major life event, such as getting married or losing your previous insurance.

State-Offered Programs

Even though ACA is a national law, you can also purchase your health coverage through a state insurance exchange, which follows a very similar enrollment process as the one described above.

Thirty-one states have also expanded Medicaid coverage for its citizens; if you live in one of those states and you haven't been able to enroll in the past, it's worth checking into again. Unfortunately, 19 states have not expanded Medicaid coverage for its citizens; the list of those states can be found at The White House.

Thanks to the passing of the ACA, there are now a number of affordable health insurance options available to you. You just have to take the time to understand which option will best suit your needs.

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What You Can Do Right Now

Information is great. But taking small steps now can lead to big changes.
  • Today
  • If you don’t already have health insurance, you may be subject to a fine, per the new rules of the Affordable Healthcare Act.
  • Begin researching potential options to avoid the fine.
  • Next Week
  • After you’ve selected the health insurance plan that is both affordable and meets your needs, begin the application process. Collect and submit any necessary documents.
  • Once your application is approved, put your policy and any other documents you receive in a safe place.
  • If your employer offers a Flexible Spending Account, consider opening one to save money on prescriptions and co-payments.
  • During the Next Few Months
  • Review bills and statements you receive from doctor’s offices as well as your insurance company to make sure that you are not paying more for services than you should.