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How affordable is health insurance under the Affordable Care Act? It depends on whom you ask. With monthly premium rates increasing an average of 25 percent nationwide for 2017 and soaring as high as 176 percent in places such as Phoenix, Obamacare keeps getting more expensive while options keep dwindling. And, consumers are getting frustrated.
Some, particularly those in the middle class, feel that health insurance has become too costly under the law intended to provide all Americans with access to quality, affordable healthcare., But, unless you qualify for an exemption, the ACA’s individual shared responsibility provision requires you to obtain minimum essential coverage. So, what do you do if you’re worried about how much Obamacare will cost you in 2017 and think you can’t afford coverage?
In 2017, if the only health insurance plans available to you exceed 8.16 percent of your income, then you may qualify for a hardship exemption from the shared responsibility provision (i.e. individual mandate). An exemption means you will not owe the shared responsibility payment (i.e., tax penalty).
There are several types of exemptions. To determine whether or not you qualify for a hardship exemption in particular, you must apply for it.
1. Yes, I qualify for a hardship exemption.
If you suspect that you qualify for a hardship exemption, then you should apply – you can obtain instructions from HealthCare.gov or through your state-based exchange. Do not forego buying health insurance coverage until you know whether or not you are exempt; if you exceed more than a single period of three months without minimum essential coverage and are not exempt, you could owe a tax penalty.
Once your exemption has been confirmed, you may want to consider some form of benefits to help pay for healthcare if you become ill or have an accident. There are numerous, including the following:
Keep in mind that none of the options listed above is ACA-compliant and will not prevent you from owing a tax penalty if you are not exempt. Furthermore, coverage may not be guaranteed.
2. No, I don’t qualify for a hardship exemption.
You will want to enroll in a 2017 Obamacare plan sold on or away from your state-based or federally facilitated exchange. Again, failure to do so could result in a tax penalty if you exceed a single period of more than three months without minimum essential coverage.
The ACA makes subsidies in the form of premium tax credits to those who: A.) meet 2017 income criteria, and B.) purchase coverage from the health insurance marketplace (i.e., HealthCare.gov or a state-based exchange). Furthermore, those who fulfill these two criteria and also purchase a silver plan may qualify for cost-sharing reductions that help lower out-of-pocket healthcare costs.
You can estimate your subsidy using a calculator such as the Health eDeals Health Insurance Cost and Subsidy Calculator. However, you must apply for a subsidy through a health insurance marketplace (i.e., HealthCare.gov or a state-based exchange) to determine the amount for which you actually qualify.
1. Yes, I qualify for an Obamacare subsidy in 2017.
If you qualify for a premium tax credit and cost-sharing subsidies, you will want to purchase coverage through the health insurance marketplace (i.e., HealthCare.gov or a state-based exchange).
2. No, I don’t qualify for a subsidy.
You may want to expand your search and find out what Obamacare options are available to you in the private market, away from the ACA exchanges. Also consider buying supplemental benefits in the form of a medical gap plan, critical illness coverage, dental insurance, and telemedicine to help reduce your out-of-pocket healthcare costs for covered expenses.
A health insurance producer can assist you in finding the right benefits for your household. They’ve seen a number of different situations, understand health insurance and the ACA, and know the current market.
Read our article “Need Help Finding a Health Plan?” to learn more about working with a licensed, local agent.
You can also call the number at the top of your screen to speak with a certified advisor who works with healthedeals.com; these individuals can answer your questions and also provide you with Obamacare quotes and quotes for supplemental products available through this website.
Open enrollment for 2017 health insurance plans began on November 1 and continues through January 31, 2017. In most states, those who want to begin coverage on February 1 must enroll by January 15, 2017. If you buy coverage between January 16 and 31, your policy will begin on March 1, 2017. Visit our Open Enrollment Resource Center to learn more.
Originally posted December 14, 2016.
 Alonso-Zaldivar, Ricardo. “Obama Health Plan Hit by Double-Digit Premium Hikes.” AP. Oct. 25, 2016. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/4e2846e6f17a4c4482d5b8c1243b85dd/obama-health-plan-hit-double-digit-premium-hikes
 Luhby, Tami. “Is Obamacare Really Affordable? Not for the Middle Class.” CNN Money. Nov. 4, 2016. http://money.cnn.com/2016/11/04/news/economy/obamacare-affordable/
 Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA). “Read the Law.” HHS.gov. Last reviewed on August 28, 2015. https://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/about-the-law/read-the-law/