But it's also worth noting that if they keep the employer-sponsored plan for the whole family, the premiums will almost certainly be payroll deducted on the pre-tax basis. On the other hand, if they opt to buy an individual market plan, the premiums would only be tax deductible to the extent that they (along with other medical expenses) exceed 10 percent of the family's household income, and assuming that the family opts to itemize their tax deductions (increasingly rare now that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has greatly increased the standard deduction).
There are other plans available year-round that are not individual major medical coverage. Most of these plans are not recommended as stand-alone coverage (with the exception of short-term plans, which can be adequate stand-alone coverage if you're healthy and you know that you need the coverage for only a short time; they are usually not at all adequate for longer-term coverage). These plans are not regulated by the Affordable Care Act, which means they can exclude pre-existing conditions, impose dollar caps on your coverage, and don't have to cover the ACA's essential health benefits. In most cases, these plans cannot really be compared with an employer-sponsored plan, since the coverage will be so much lower quality. If an insurance offer sounds too good to be true, read the fine print carefully. It may end up being a poor substitute for real health insurance, and you don't want to learn those details after you have a major claim.
Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program. This is a public health insurance program which provides needed health care services for low-income individuals including families with children, seniors, persons with disabilities, foster care, pregnant women, and low income people with specific diseases such as tuberculosis, breast cancer, or HIV/AIDS. Medi-Cal is financed equally by the state and federal government.
But the ACA changed all that. Medical underwriting is no longer used, although applicants can now only enroll during open enrollment or a special enrollment period triggered by a qualifying event (similar to how enrollment works for employer-sponsored plans). Essential health benefits are now covered on all new individual major medical plans in every state. And millions of people are receiving premium subsidies that cover the majority of their premiums for plans purchased in each state’s health insurance exchange (the ACA’s consumer protection reforms apply to plans sold outside the exchanges as well, but the subsidies are only available in the exchange). The ACA also limits the percentage of premiums that insurers can use for administrative costs, including profits and executives’ salaries; insurers have refunded billions of dollars to consumers as a result of the new rules.
For some consumers, buying individual health insurance is the only health coverage option. However, even if you have health insurance from your employer, an individual/family health insurance policy may still be an option to save money. With health insurance premiums increasing every year and employers passing more of the costs onto their employees, your company's health insurance may not be the best deal, especially if you need to cover a family.
There are premium subsidies available in the exchange, but you're not eligible for them if the plan offered by your employer is considered affordable and provides minimum value (this is true for your family members as well, if they have access to your employer-sponsored plan, even if the employer-sponsored plan is only affordable for the employee's portion of the coverage; this is known as the family glitch). Most employer-sponsored plans are affordable and do provide minimum value. So if you're shopping for an individual market plan instead, chances are high that you'll have to pay full price for it, without any subsidies.
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