The Norman Transcript

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September 10, 2013

Health exchange shopping tips for uninsured boomers

NORMAN — Dear Savvy Senior, At age 62, I will be retiring at the end of the year and plan to enroll in the Affordable Care Act until my Medicare kicks in. Can you offer me any advice on choosing a plan?

— Almost Retired

Dear Almost,

The new health insurance exchanges that begin in 2014 will have a significant impact on millions of Americans who need health insurance, especially pre-Medicare retirees and uninsured baby boomers who often have a difficult time finding affordable coverage.

To help ensure you get the best health insurance coverage that fits your needs, here are some things you should know.

Health exchange overview: Starting Oct. 1, you will be able to shop for health insurance policies and enroll in one directly through your state’s Health Insurance Marketplace website, over the phone, via mail or in person at a designated center. The coverage will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.

You also can be reassured to know that federal law prohibits Marketplace insurers from denying you coverage or charging you higher rates if you have a pre-existing health condition. But they are permitted to set premiums up to three times higher for applicants over the age of 50, and smokers may be charged up to 50 percent more than nonsmokers.

To help make coverage affordable, sliding-scale tax credits will be available if you earn less than 400 percent of the poverty level — that’s $45,960 for a single person and $62,040 for couples. These tax-credit subsidies will provide immediate savings off your monthly premiums.

See the Kaiser Family Foundation online calculator (kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator) for a premium estimate.

Every state will have a Marketplace, but each state can choose how it will operate. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia will run their own state-based Marketplace, seven states will partner with the federal government and 26 states will offer federal Marketplaces.

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