Health Insurance: What You Need to Know

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as ObamaCare), the health care situation in the United States has actually become relatively straightforward. Health insurance is generally obtained in a variety of ways - either through an employer provided plan, through federal or state websites (called exchanges or marketplaces) available in all 50 states, or by comparing the offers of different insurance carriers or providers.

Health Insurance Benefits

The benefits of health care fall almost exclusively into two distinct categories: financial and medical. From a financial standpoint, even the most expensive policy will ultimately be cheaper than paying out-of-pocket in the event that you or a family member should be diagnosed with certain types of medical conditions. Health care is also generally cheaper than paying out-of-pocket for routine medical examinations, doctor visits, visits to specialists and more. From a medical standpoint, health insurance also allows for the types of preventative coverage like immunizations.

Most individual health plans and family health insurance plans cover both preventative and routine medical expenses. They are designed to help ease the financial burden of everything from routine doctor visits to the treatment of certain devastating conditions like cancer in equal measure. Individuals and family members can choose to purchase "essential" plans, which provide a standard level of coverage, as well as plans with additional benefits that cover certain statistically rare conditions that they may be subject to based on things like family history.

Things to Consider When Buying Health Insurance

One of the many things to consider when buying health insurance has to do with the decision to go with either a short-term or a long-term plan. There are two main types of health insurance available for you to choose from. Short-term plans are favorable for many people who might find themselves in between jobs or who are waiting for an employer provided health plan to begin. Short-term plans are generally cheaper than long-term coverage, but they also have a variety of drawbacks that shouldn't be ignored. For starters, they provide no coverage for certain pre-existing conditions that a person may have like diabetes or cancer. They also offer no preventative care coverage and offer gap coverage only. Long-term plans are more expensive, but they provide the type of comprehensive care that both families and individuals need.

Tax Penalties for the Uninsured

Tax penalties for the uninsured will vary depending on the specifics of the situation. In 2015, for example, an individual will have to pay a penalty of up to 2 percent of their yearly household income for being uninsured. A second method of calculating the penalty involves paying $325 per adult for the year or $162.50 per child under the age of 18 years old. Under the Affordable Care Act, the larger of those two penalties is the one that will be assessed. The penalty steadily increases each year that a person is uninsured for the foreseeable future.

Enrollment Dates, Guidelines and Renewal Information

Enrollment dates for health insurance options provided by the Affordable Care Act will vary depending on the state in which a person lives. In Maryland, for example, health insurance enrollment begins on or around November 15 every year and continues until the end of December. Both individuals and family members have that period of time to review plans, choose the option that best fits their situation and enroll. Guidelines for each plan will be listed on the Marketplace website as well. Generally speaking, most people will need to renew a plan each year to continue coverage.

Cost of Health Insurance

The total cost of health insurance will vary depending on the plan selected by an individual or a family. The premium is the total amount of money paid per month for the plan, which can range from $100 to several hundred dollars or more depending on the situation. The deductible is the total amount of money that a person must pay for out-of-pocket expenses before the health insurance plan will go into effect. A person can dramatically reduce the premium on a health insurance plan, for example, by choosing a plan with a much higher deductible. The right decision will always come down to the family in general above all else.