The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is intended to ensure that Americans have access to healthcare they can afford. To that end, it has created a public marketplace where people can buy health insurance. Depending on life circumstances and income, this public marketplace provides insurance plans with tax credits that lower premiums to make the plans more accessible to many Americans. If you’re interested in learning more information about the public marketplace, we can help you evaluate the options.
Nearly a century later, private health insurance continues to dominate the U.S. health care landscape. Despite attempts by U.S. Presidents, including Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton, government-sponsored universal health care never materialized. And, although President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law in the 1960s to provide a safety net for citizens over age 65, the majority of Americans under 65 continue to get their health care from private insurers.
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A good place to start is HealthCare.gov. This is the health insurance exchange created by the The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and is a one-stop shop for private individual market health insurance plans (note that the exchange itself is run by the government, but the health plans for sale in the exchange are all private, from the health insurance companies with which you're already familiar). People in 39 states use HealthCare.gov to enroll in individual market plans. The other 11 states and the District of Columbia have state-run exchanges, and you'll be directed to their sites from HealthCare.gov when you select your state.
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.
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