The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

Federal government rolls out health care website: How to navigate the policy maze

If you are unsure whether you have health insurance, now is the time to check, or prepare to pay a fine by March 31, 2014. Having health insurance coverage will soon be a requirement and as conventional as car insurance.

The Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, stopped certain insurance practices such as charging women higher rates and denying coverage for people with pre-existing health conditions.

But the law is more widely recognized for requiring all U.S. citizens and permanent residents to have health insurance plans that cover 10 essential benefits, including hospitalization, preventative care, emergency care and prescription drugs, either through the public government-run marketplace or a private company.

The law levies financial penalties for not having coverage. Americans without coverage will be fined $95 or 1 percent of their yearly income, whichever is higher. By 2016, the fee will increase to 2.5 percent or $695 per person, whichever is higher.

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The federal government mandated the creation of a health insurance marketplace, also called the exchange, where consumers can compare and purchase insurance.

You are considered covered if you already have a plan that meets the minimum benefits requirement, receive medical insurance from an employer or from government programs like Medicare, Medi-Cal or other veterans’ health care programs.

What this means for young adults

Adults under 26 can stay on their families’ insurance policies, even if their parents can no longer claim them as dependents on their income taxes. People ineligble for this option can shop for individual plans on the California state-run exchange at

But people with less than a certain income, $15,860 for single adults with no dependents, may qualify for subsidy or tax credits on premiums and out-of-pocket cost (deductibles and co-payments). Some may also be eligible for free or low-cost coverage through Medi-Cal.

Who is exempt?

Americans can opt out of the mandate and apply for insurance exemption if their annual income is under the required amount for filing taxes, typically $9,750 for a single person. Other eligibility for exemption is also listed on

How do I get coverage?

You can buy insurance directly from an insurance company, but to get financial assistance for those who are eligible for subsidies, you must purchase from the government-run exchanges.

To apply and look for coverage plans that may work for you, go California’s government-run health insurance exchange at

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