Finding health insurance that doesn't crush your household budget may soon get a little easier thanks to the new health insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, operating in every state.
But how much will a good health plan set you back? And do you qualify for a federal tax credit to lower your monthly premiums?
You can find out what your costs and potential savings might be when you submit an application for health insurance through your state marketplace. (Open enrollment in the health insurance exchanges, a centerpiece of the health reform law known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, runs from October 1 through March 31, 2014.)
But if you just want a rough estimate before diving into the exchange, you can try one of the online calculators that have popped up on the web, including some state marketplace websites.
“I think its a first good place to get started,” said Regan Hunt, executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health, a Louisville-based nonprofit coalition working to ensure access to affordable health care. “Some people really like to do their due diligence and their research before getting online to go shopping,” she said.
However, the calculators are limited in what they can tell you, she added. How you define your household size, for example, or your estimated earnings after a job loss could affect the numbers.
“Your final premiums and costs may differ from the estimates, perhaps significantly, depending on where you live and the coverage you select,” cautions HealthCare.gov, the federal governments website for health reform information.
Hunts advice? Try several calculators to see if theres much difference in the answers you get. “Dont just stick with one.”
Four Calculators to Try
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundations Subsidy Calculator
HealthCare.gov directs consumers to The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundations subsidy calculator. Enter your state, an estimate of your 2014 annual income, whether you have access to employer coverage, the number of people in your family, including the number of adults and children, and whether anyone is a smoker.
The calculator can tell where your household income ranks as a percentage of the federal poverty level, whether you would qualify for Medicaid and, if you qualify for coverage through the marketplace, what your annual premium might be and the size of the federal tax credit you may receive to offset your costs. Itll tell you the premium and cost-sharing amounts for a “silver” plan and compare those estimates to what you might pay in a “bronze” plan. It also tells you the most you would pay out of pocket.
If you have kids, the calculator will advise you about other coverage options, such as the Childrens Health Insurance Program.
At eHealth Inc., the parent company of online health insurance site eHealthInsurance, you can find out whether you may be eligible for the premium tax credit based on your household size and income level.
Just plug in a few pieces of data and the calculator spits out the amount of the tax credit you may receive based on a typical plan in your state. It also tells you the penalty you would pay in 2014 if you chose not to remain uninsured.
Or you can try GoHealth, another online portal for health insurance, which calculates your premium and tax credit using your zip code, income, age and family size.
The nonprofit group SHOUTAmerica, through its educational initiative Young Americans for Affordable Healthcare offers a tool for figuring out how health reform will affect young adults insurance costs in 2014.
Use it to ballpark your cost after any applicable premium tax credit. You can also learn about other health insurance options. For example, young adults under 26 may be eligible to stay on their parents health plan, and adults under 30 can buy a “catastrophic” health plan with a lower premium but higher out-of-pocket costs.