The most sweeping U.S. tax reform in 30 years became official when the federal tax overhaul passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Donald Trump Dec. 22, 2017. The new law includes several major changes to the Internal Revenue Code and also repeals former President Barack Obama’s health care law, which included an individual mandate for health insurance coverage. Under “Obamacare,” nearly all Americans were required by law to have health insurance or pay a penalty. In 2017, the penalty was $695 per adult and $347.50 per child or 2.5% of one’s household income, whichever was greater.
Whether the health care law repeal is good or bad for Americans is a politically charged topic. Citizens have widely debated the law’s benefits and unfavorable aspects since it went into full effect in 2014, and its repeal may be equally contentious.
What is clear with the repeal is healthy people will no longer be under an incentivized mandate to obtain health insurance or face consequences. Last November, the Congressional Budget Office projected an estimated 13 million people will drop health coverage due to the repeal. The fear is that with fewer healthy people paying premiums, health care costs will rise as health insurance companies are left with a less healthy customer base.
I’m never sick, so why do I need health insurance?
Regardless of whether it’s government mandated, every American should have a health insurance plan in place — and options exist for those who think they can’t afford it. People really can’t afford not to have insurance, yet many learn that lesson the hard way when unexpected events happen.
Even a seemingly healthy person can fall victim to an accident or sudden illness that requires immediate medical care, hospitalization, and follow-up visits. Patients with no health insurance coverage are directly responsible for medical bills that, if unpaid, can lead to financial demise for the individual and those who depend on that person. In fact, the inability to pay high medical bills is among the most common reasons people file for personal bankruptcy.
Anyone seeking health insurance should know that many options exist to accommodate different needs and budgets. Whether you are between employers and need transitional coverage or you are at an age where you are no longer covered on a parent’s plan — typically age 26 — there are customizable plans available. And those who say, “I’m too healthy to pay for insurance” or “I can’t afford health insurance” should consult with an insurance professional to see what type of insurance best fits their situations. A few of the many options available include:
- Major medical or catastrophic plan — This type of insurance is for those who want to protect themselves from life’s unexpected emergencies but can’t or don’t want to pay premiums associated with full coverage. Catastrophic plans typically cover a large portion of bills associated with major medical events like heart attacks, hospitalizations, surgeries, or other traumas. These policies are generally suited for those who don’t frequent the doctor and are comfortable paying out of pocket for preventive care and more minor occurrences. Those who are self-employed or don’t have health insurance through their employers often purchase these plans.
- Health savings account (HSA) plans — HSAs allow those insured to make tax-free contributions into accounts they can use to pay for qualified medical expenses. Interest earned on the funds is tax-deferred, and any withdrawals from the account are tax-free so long as they are spent on approved medical expenses. This plan type is a great option for those who tend not to amass medical expenses or who would benefit from the tax savings.
- Short-term medical — Those between medical plans who want to avoid the dreaded coverage gap may find solace in short-term medical coverage. This policy type can cover qualified applicants for up to 11 months and offer lower rates than other, more comprehensive plans. It is best for those who want to ensure coverage for major services, but not for those who require coverage for pre-existing conditions, regular prescriptions, or frequent doctor’s visits.
- Senior medical coverage — Those turning 65 as well as those leaving a company or COBRA plan after age 65 may face specific needs and challenges related to their health insurance coverage. Various dental and vision plans are available to eligible seniors. Also, Medicare Supplement Insurance can help pay for some health care costs Medicare doesn’t cover. This may include copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles.
As no universal health insurance exists for all Americans, your personalized coverage should fit your lifestyle, your needs, and your budget. The options vary and can be overwhelming and confusing, especially as our nation transitions out of the “Obamacare” era. But you don’t need to navigate the health care coverage map alone. A trusted and experienced health insurance provider can help you determine the coverage you need at a price you can afford.