The topic of health care reform causes different reactions in everyone. But regardless of your feelings, one thing you should not feel about health care reform is confusion about how it affects your family.
President Obama's health care reform, which is officially called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or ACA) but often referred to as Obamacare, was signed on March 23, 2010. The timeline for the reform program, which outlines various efforts toward improving the nation's health care program, stretches into 2022. Some changes have already been put into action and many others are set to follow.
For families, a benefit that is already set in place is children can now stay on their parents' health care plan until the age of 26. Insurance companies are also required to guarantee coverage to any child with a past or current health problem. Previously, adults without insurance for more than six months that were denied coverage because of a pre-existing health condition are now eligible for coverage without increased premiums. Another bonus for your family under the PPACA includes free preventive screenings and other services, such as routine physical exams, well baby and child pediatrician visits, many immunizations, annual gynecological visits and mammograms. If you already have insurance, it is unlikely you would have to purchase a new insurance plan under the law.
In 2014, one of the biggest changes set to take place is that nearly every U.S. citizen is required to have health insurance or they will be subject to paying a penalty tax. There are some exemptions, such as those with financial hardship. The penalty taxes for going without insurance are pretty steep — $95 per adult and $47.50 per child (up to $285 for a family) or 1 percent of the household income, whichever is more. This tax gradually increases to $695 per adult and $347.50 per child (up to $2,085 per family) or 2.5 percent of the family income in 2016 and beyond.
While the penalty tax seems harsh, the government is offering help with getting all citizens insured in 2014 with the Health Insurance Marketplace, which is specific to each state and serves as a way to shop for the best health care plans and prices for your family. When they purchase individual insurance through the Marketplace, the Advanced Premium Tax Credit and subsidies may be available to certain families, depending on the household's size and income.
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