The health care overhaul is expected to help millions of uninsured obtain coverage, but that assistance has limits.
Individuals who do not have the option to obtain insurance from their employer, and who make more than about $46,000 — or a family of four bringing in more than $94,200 — will not be eligible for income-based tax credits under the new health care law.
The enrollment period for the nation's new health insurance system started Oct. 1. Here are some shopping tips to consider if you make too much to land a helping hand from the overhaul with next year's insurance bill.
1. RENEW WHAT YOU HAVE:
Ask your insurer if you can renew your current plan early.
That could enable you to keep your coverage for another year and avoid some initial sticker shock triggered by the health care overhaul. Insurers have warned for months that some people — younger customers in particular — may see substantial hikes in the rates due to the overhaul's coverage requirements.
The law requires that all plans cover certain essential health benefits, such as mental health and maternity care. Although that will lead to more comprehensive coverage, it will come with a price tag. So if your plan doesn't cover those benefits this year, you should be prepared to see an increase in your bill.
The overhaul also limits the difference between what insurers can charge customers in different age brackets. That may contribute to a premium hike next year for a 20-something, while someone in their 50s may see a decrease.
Brokers warn that customers who are considering an early renewal should first look at what options they would have otherwise. They may find a plan that suits them better than their current coverage.
2. SEARCH BROADLY:
The overhaul features the launch of state-based insurance exchanges that can help individuals use their tax credits or subsidies to buy coverage. These exchanges are designed to help shoppers compare different policies with a few clicks of the computer mouse, but they don't give a complete picture of insurance options.
These public exchanges only show plans for which subsidies can be used. An insurer may offer other plans in your state
Plans will be sold based on four coverage levels — bronze, silver, gold and platinum — that correspond to the extent of the insurance provided. Bronze-level plans will have relatively lower premiums, with the insurer picking up 60 percent of the patient's medical costs. Platinum plans will be more expensive, but the insurer will pick up 90 percent.