Obamacare

Obamacare 101: How to stay covered and save (if that’s what you’re into)

Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, starts today. We know, there’s nothing as boring or seemingly pointless as signing up for health care at a young age.

But here’s the thing: If, like many millennials, health care isn’t a huge deal for you, and you’re just looking for the quickest, cheapest way to stay insured, then paying attention now could save you serious cash. Here’s a quick guide to do Obamacare on the cheap.

How much should I expect to spend on Obamacare in Philadelphia?

Depends on how much you make, whether and how many kids you have, and how much medical care you’re thinking you’ll actually need. Let’s say you are 28, make $60,000 with no spouse and no kids. The least expensive plan offered for my Center City zipcode is $186 per month and would pay for about 60 percent of average health care costs as part of the bronze plan. The most expensive plan is $489 per month but would pay for about 90 percent and perhaps even 100 percent of average health care costs as part of the platinum plan. The silver plan, which the majority of people take, has a low cost of $227 per month and a high cost of $356 per month. If you’re eligible for tax credits, these costs could go down but not by that much. Someone making $30,000 a year who is single and has no children would likely be eligible for about $2 per month.

Metal-head: Explain bronze, silver, gold and platinum really quick.

Bronze covers 60 percent of health care expenses. If you don’t plan on visiting the doctor very often or ever, get the bronze. If you’re a little more cautious, a silver plan that covers 70 percent of expenses might be your best bet. The gold plan covers about 80 percent and the platinum plan 90 percent.

If I enrolled last year, do I need to sign up all over again?

You don’t have to. Your plan will be automatically renewed if you’re still eligible for it and the plan still exists. But you might want to check it out in case the terms have changed and you’re on the hook for a more expensive monthly premium.

Really, more money? Why?

Insurance costs almost always go up, and those offered under the Affordable Care Act will be no different. People who stuck with their health plans before Obamacare saw their plans go up between 9 and 12 percent from 2008-2010, according to the New York Times’ Upshot.  Odds are the plan you had is going to cost more this year. The average increase in monthly premium nationwide for the cheapest silver plan is 8.4 percent, also according to Upshot.

But I’m really cheap. Even if I bought the cheapest plan last year as a Philly resident, will I still be paying more if I don’t change my plan?

Yup. You especially should change your plan. According to that same study from Wakely Consulting Group that looked at the most populous counties in 34 states using the example of a 40-year-old single, nonsmoker, the cheapest bronze and silver plans from 2014, along with the second-cheapest silver plan from 2014, are no longer the cheapest in Philadelphia County. To get the cheapest bronze or silver you’ll need to switch.

How much more will I be paying if I don’t switch?

Hat tip to Wakely once again: If you had the cheapest bronze plan last year and keep it, your monthly cost will increase by approximately 8 percent or $18. If you had the cheapest silver plan last year and keep it, your monthly cost will increase by approximately 17 percent or $43.

Will I still be paying more than last year even if I switch to the new cheapest plan?

Depends. According to Wakely, the 2015 cheapest silver plan will still be more expensive than last year’s cheapest silver plan, 6 percent of $16 more expensive per month. The 2015 cheapest bronze plan will be less by 6 percent of $15.

Make it really simple for me. Let’s say I switch to these new, cheaper plans. What will be my savings per month versus if I didn’t switch to these new plans, according to that Wakely study?

Cheapest bronze: $33 per month

Cheapest silver: $27 per month

What are the cons of switching plans?

It could cause some inconvenience. You’ll have to do some extra paperwork and perhaps switch doctors depending on whether your current doctor takes whatever new insurance plan you switch to.

If I don’t get insurance through my job, do I really, really have to get Obamacare?

You don’t have to, but you probably should. If you don’t get Obamacare you’ll have to pay whichever of these two options costs you more: pay $325 for the whole year or pay 2 percent of your yearly income.

What if I’m only 26?

As long as your parents will still have you on their plan, you’re good to go.

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