Ask Amy Smith – Healthcare EditionOct 14th, 2013 | By Amy Smith | Category: Ask Amy Smith
ASK AMY SMITH
by Amy Smith for The Dance Journal
This column in the Dance Journal seeks to improve the financial literacy of dancers and artists in all creative disciplines, so that they may develop sustainable practices and further expand the reach of their creativity. Questions for Amy may be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
1. I am a freelance dancer but currently have health insurance under my husband’s coverage that he has through his place of work. Do I still need to purchase insurance under Obamacare? Or can I keep my current plan?
Dear Currently Covered,
You do not need to purchase insurance through the exchange if you are currently covered. However, unless you are lucky enough to get free coverage from your husband’s work, you may save a lot of money by going through the exchange and purchasing it there instead. My husband is a teacher, so my whole family is now covered through his job, with minimal cost to us, and it’s the first time in my adult life that I haven’t been cobbling together CHIP, catastrophic insurance, high premium decent insurance, etc. to try to get coverage for myself, my husband, and my two kids. What a sigh of relief when we all finally got low-cost coverage. So if you are in that situation, great, but if not, check out the exchange at healthcare.gov.
*note: throughout this column, I’m using the term “Obamacare” as shorthand for the Affordable Care Act. If you don’t know that they are the same thing: educate yourself, and watch this video: Jimmy Kimmel Live – Six of One
2. I work as a dancer and also in the food service industry. Neither are full time jobs and neither offer any benefits. So currently I do not have health insurance. All totaled I earn under $24,000 a year and basically live paycheck to paycheck. Under Obamacare I understand I can get health care but not sure if I can really afford it. So… 1) What will health insurance now cost me? 2) Do I have to purchase insurance if I cannot afford it? 3) Is there a penalty if I do not purchase insurance? Have heard so many things just not sure what I need to do.
Dear Multi-Part Questioner,
It’s one of the ironies of the private insurance system: the system needs young, healthy people enrolled and paying premiums to offset the older, sicker people who are more likely to need more healthcare — but young, healthy people often don’t feel the necessity to sign up. In my ideal world, we would avoid this problem by just having a simple single-payer system like every other civilized nation. But the situation is what it is, and the bottom line is that you should buy insurance. You never know when you might need it, even if you are young and healthy – I personally know two young artists who were financially devastated by accident/infection. One was a young actress who was hit by a car while riding her bike. The other was a young dancer who got encephalitis. So don’t assume that nothing bad can happen to you.
The good news is that Obamacare will subsidize a huge portion of your insurance premium. The website for Obamacare is still glitchy, but if you go to the Kaiser Family Foundation website and use their calculator you can find out just how much your premium will be subsidized. Making some guesses about you, I plugged in some numbers and found that you could likely buy a “bronze” plan (which is probably all you need) for about $80/month. You may still feel that you still cannot afford it, and that’s understandable, but eventually you will be fined for opting out of coverage. I think the fine next year will be $95, but it will go up over the next 3 years to about $700. This is obviously to incentivize you to buy coverage.
3. I have several part time jobs to feed my passion – dance! None of these provide benefits but I have been lucky enough to buy health insurance through one of the non-profit organizations that I have been a member of. It is not a great plan and a bit overpriced. So I am hoping the affordable care act will offer some new opportunities and more competitive plans and rates. Where can I find information about what exchanges are available in Pennsylvania and a good comparison of what is offered? How do I go about getting good coverage at a fair rate?
So glad to hear that you are currently covered. It is true that you will probably be paying much less under Obamacare than you are currently paying. Because Governor Corbett (like 25 other Republican governors) opted out of PA creating their own exchange, PA residents will be using the federally-run exchange, which you can find at healthcare.gov. Once you type in a bunch of information about your age, your income, how much you are paying in student loans, etc. you will get to a screen that shows you the plans you are eligible for, and how much your portion of the premium will cost. Depending on your income, Obamacare will be subsidizing a large portion of your premium. So you should be able to find something that protects you, and is affordable. As you already know, because you already have insurance, the more you pay in premiums up front, the less you pay in co-pays when you go to doctors and hospitals. The Obamacare website conveniently groups plans into four levels from Bronze (lower premium, higher co-pays) to Platinum (the opposite). Young people usually opt for Bronze or Silver plans, unless they have chronic conditions and know they will need lots of healthcare.
4. Love the new column! So have been debating about getting health insurance under the new Obamacare offerings. Should I wait to purchase? I don’t want to purchase insurance and then find out they are repealing everything. Would I then become uninsured again?
Thank you! I love writing this column! My personal mission is to help artists improve their financial literacy so they can stay in the field. So this column is right up my alley – thank you to Steve Weisz for suggesting it. Now, on to your question. The new website is glitchy, no doubt. I have been on it a few times since October 1, and they are still working out kinks. Luckily, you have until December 15 to sign up for coverage that begins on January 1. So I would suggest that you DO wait a couple of weeks until the website is functioning better to sign up. But DON’T wait to purchase because you are concerned about the House Republicans being successful in their attempt to defund Obamacare. The law is settled, it was upheld by the Supreme Court, and it is not going away. There may be some small changes to the law (for example, the Republicans want to get rid of a tax on medical devices), but none of them will affect you. So go confidently into coverage, and then once you are covered, get some Xanax. I know I need some right now with all this shutdown craziness, vitriolic rhetoric, and the looming debt ceiling crisis! Whew!
NOTE: There is a free event on Tuesday night October 15th, at which Jim Brown of the Actor’s Fund will talk about health insurance for performing artists. For more information about attending visit http://www.whitepinesproductions.org/jim-brown-on-obamacare/
The information provided on this site and accompanying material is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice. You should consult with an attorney or other professional to determine what may be best for your individual needs. Neither PhiladelphiaDANCE.org, The Dance Journal or Amy Smith does make any guarantee or other promise as to any results that may be obtained from using this content. No one should make any investment decision without first consulting his or her own financial advisor and conducting his or her own research and due diligence. To the maximum extent permitted by law, PhiladelphiaDANCE.org, The Dance Journal or Amy Smith disclaims any and all liability in the event any information, commentary, analysis, opinions, advice and/or recommendations prove to be inaccurate, incomplete or unreliable, or result in any investment or other losses.Content contained on or made available through the website is not intended to and does not constitute legal advice or investment advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed. Your use of the information on the website or materials linked from the Web is at your own risk.