What if even the Bronze Plan under the ACA costs too much?

The ACA has exemptions for financial hardship, when income is too low or a few other reasons. A catastrophic plan can cover essential health benefits.

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, mandates that most people are insured either through their employer or by purchasing their own policy. Beginning in October, 2013, options will be available through a Health Insurance Marketplace in every state for purchasing insurance.

Exemptions from that mandate include financial hardship, which is an official definition based on income and family size. Depending upon your income level, the good news is that you may qualify for a tax credit and/or cost-sharing subsidies from the federal government to lower how much you may pay for health insurance purchased through the official marketplace. If you choose not to purchase a policy, you will be required to pay an additional tax every year you do not purchase a policy. The first year that tax will be either $95 in 2015 or 1 percent of your income, whichever is greater. The tax penalty increases each subsequent year for the next few years.

Catastrophic coverage will be available for younger people under 30 and those with extreme economic hardship. Uninsured people will not have to pay the fee if the Marketplace calculator determines their income is too low or a few other reasons. A catastrophic plan can cover essential health benefits. The catch is that you may have to meet a very high deductible (several thousand dollars for an individual, up to over $10,000 per family) that you have paid out of your pocket before essential health benefits are covered by the insurance company.

Also be sure to check any other special insurance programs and plans for which you may be eligible.

For more answers to your questions about health insurance, go to healthcare.gov Q&A or the Health Insurance FAQs - eXtension. Michigan State University Extension plans to provide education about health insurance basics this fall, including the why, what and how for making a smart decision. Delivery will include online webinars with access by all Michigan residents as well as group presentations.

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