From Our 2013 Archives

Your Questions About 'Obamacare' Answered

By Kevin S. Austin
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Lisa Zamosky

Oct. 23, 2013 -- The bungled rollout of HealthCare.gov's insurance web site has made headlines for the past few weeks. So it's no surprise that many people had questions about the site and how to purchase health insurance during a live chat hosted Tuesday by WebMD.

WebMD holds the chats every Tuesday at noon ET to answer questions about the Affordable Care Act. Here are some questions and answers from our latest chat. Our weekly series of live chats will continue on Oct. 29 at noon. You also can go here to ask a question or search for more answers.

Q. Where can I get a paper application form?

A. You can use a paper application to check whether you are eligible for Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, or the new subsidies (financial aid) offered through the Marketplace. Download the application from "How Do I Apply for Marketplace Coverage?" After you send it in, you'll be notified of your eligibility in 1 to 2 weeks. You can complete your enrollment online or by calling the Marketplace Call Center at 800-318-2596.

Q. If I buy a plan from Aetna and I qualify for a subsidy, will my network of providers and hospitals be different from the Aetna plan I have now through my employer?

A. If you're offered insurance at work, you probably won't qualify for a subsidy unless the premium for your work-based coverage costs is more than 9.5% of your annual income. Your best bet is likely to stick with your employer's plan.

If you do make a change, though, you can't assume that the provider networks of any two health plans are the same, even if they're offered by the same company, such as Aetna. If you have a doctor or hospital that you want to continue seeing, you must confirm that those providers are included in the plan you're considering. You may be able to check through the Marketplace, but always double-check by contacting the plan directly and by contacting your doctor's office.

Q. Can I change plans every year depending upon my health needs?

A. Every year there will be an open enrollment period when you can choose any of the plans offered in the Marketplace. The number and types of plans may change from year to year, so you should review your options every year.

Q. Will the Affordable Care Act cause my premiums to go up if they don't get as many people as expected to sign up?

The answer is quite possibly "yes." Part of keeping insurance costs down depends on a good mix of both healthy and sick people in the insurance pool to spread the risk. If mostly sick people, who use a lot of medical services, are signing up for coverage and healthy people are not, then insurance costs could rise.

Q. If our state does not expand Medicaid, can we get a subsidy?

A. It's possible you will qualify for a subsidy and for help to lower your out-of-pocket costs. Go to HealthCare.gov to find out.

SOURCES: Lisa Zamosky, WebMD Health Reform Expert; author, Healthcare, Insurance and You: The Savvy Consumer's Guide.William S. Custer, PhD, director, Center for Health Services Research, J. Mack Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University.Sarah Goodell, independent health policy consultant.Healthcare.gov: "How Do I Apply for Marketplace Coverage?"

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