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The December 15th deadline for health insurance to go into effect January 1st is just around the corner. If you are one the many last minute shoppers for health insurance and still need help, have no fear.

Here’s a brief overview of Covered California and what you need to know to get started.

History of the Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act’s full, legal title is The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It’s more commonly known as Obamacare.

A little known fact, the Obamacare name was actually conceived by opposing Republicans who derided the bill President Barack Obama supported.

The bill was originally introduced by House Democrats in October of 2009 under the name, Affordable Health Care for America Act, H.R. 3962.

The following month, the House Committee on Rules introduced House Resolution 903, which was pass the next day on November 7, 2009.

The same day, the U.S. House approved its version of health care reform with 220-215 vote.

Almost two months later, December 24, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the health care plan. On March 21, 2010  the Senate bill was amended and OK’ed by the House with a 219-212 vote.

Two days later, on March 23, 2010 President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act into law.

In June of 2010, the first major provisions of ACA went into effect. Adults with existing conditions can join temporary high-risk pools that expire when the Act takes effect.

A few months later in September, more elements of ACA went into effect.

  • No lifetime dollar limits on healthcare coverage
  • Dependent children allowed to say on parent’s insurance until 26.
  • No pre-existing exclusions for those under age of 19
  • Insurers barred from requiring co-payments for preventive care and vaccinations.

Even though the bill was passed into law, there were plenty of people who disapproved of the law. On November 14, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments on ACA brought on by 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business. Their case argued that elements of Affordable Care Act were unconstitutional.

On June 28, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act and on January 1, 2014, the bulk of the ACA went into effect.

  • Open Health Benefit Exchange sales of coverage.
  • Prohibits denial of coverage to adults with pre-existing conditions.
  • Requires large employers to provide coverage to those who work at least 30 hours per week.
  • Expansion of eligibility for the Medi-Cal program.
  • Tax credits for small business that provide coverage.
  • Tax credits for individuals and families with incomes up to $94,200 (for a family of four) who buy their insurance through the Health Benefit Exchange.

Healthcare.Gov vs. Covered California

Some Californians might have confusion on what the difference between the Affordable Care Act and its Healthcare.gov website and Covered California’s CoveredCA.com site.

Covered California is a state-specific health insurance exchange (or marketplace). Not every state has their own price comparison website. In fact, only sixteen states have currently done so. If your state doesn’t have a dedicated exchange at this time, visit HealthCare.gov to get your health insurance.

California does have its own exchange. If you’re living in California and looking to get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, visit CoveredCA.com

Did You Know Health Insurance Is Mandatory?

If you’re unaware, health insurance is required. If you fail to comply and purchase minimum essential coverage, there is a fee called the individual shared responsibility payment.

The fee is calculated a couple of different ways; a percentage of household income or on a per person basis. YOU PAY THE HIGHER AMOUNT!

Percentage of Income

  • 2.5% of household income
  • The maximum is the total yearly premium for the national average price of a Bronze plan.

Per Person

  • $695 per adult
  • $347.5 per child under 18
  • Maximum is $2,085

What Is Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC)?

This is the type of medical coverage Americans need to have in order to avoid the fees mentioned above.

Here’s a list of the types of health insurance included in MEC:

  • Employer-sponsored coverage (including COBRA and retiree coverage)
  • Coverage purchased in the individual market, including qualified health plans offered by Affordable Insurance Exchange.
  • Medicare Part A and Medicare Advantage plans.
  • Most Medicaid coverage
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Certain types of veterans health coverage administered by the VA
  • Coverage provided to Peace Corps volunteers
  • Coverage under the Non-appropriated Fund Health Benefit Program
  • Refugee Medical Assistance supported by the Administration of Children and Families

Is the Affordable Healthcare Act Working?

When the Affordable Care Act launched, it experienced a few embarrassing mishaps, most notably the Healthcare.gov site not working properly. This lead to a paltry 27,000 signups in the first month. But since the slow start, ACA has proved to be a successful law.

The Affordable Care Act law has delivered on its two major promises; the number of Americans without health insurance has decreased and the cost of the health insurance has dropped.

According to the New York Times, the number of Americans without health insurance has decreased by eight to 11 million people, or around 25% since the Affordable Care Act was enacted. The cost of health insurance to American citizens has been lowered, as 85% of the people who signed up during the enrollment period qualified for federal subsidies, which lowered the cost by an average of 76%.

By all accounts, it does appear that the Affordable Care Act is working.

Where is the Funding Coming From?

A successful like the Affordable Care Act is great. Especially if you’re eligible for federal subsidies that decrease your costs significantly. But that begs the question, who is paying for it?

Funding for Obamacare comes from taxes and reduced cost initiatives. Individuals making more than $200,000 a year or couples making more than $250,000 will be paying more in taxes for health care. For example, individuals making more than these thresholds, they will pay 2.35% of their wages over $200k/$250k instead of 1.45%.

Another way wealthy Americans will be taxed more is if they have “Cadillac” health insurance plans. These plans cost more than $10,200 annually for an individual and $27,500 for a family. The logic is it will encourage employers and employees to choose lower-cost health insurance and really only buy for what they need.

Small businesses are also feeling the pinch from Obamacare. Businesses with more than 50 employees are required to offer health insurance to full-time employees, or pay a penalty. This has prompted some businesses to add surcharges to their services, in an effort to cover the increased costs.

How Can You Sign Up for Covered California?

Getting signed up for Covered California is simple. It’s a four-step process that will take less time than your favorite TV show.

  1. Shop and Compare – just entered basic information and get an estimate of what you’d pay.
  2. Apply – Your next order of business is to apply for health insurance. Make sure you have your income information, proof of citizenship, Social Security number, and your zip code.
  3. Review your different health insurance options and choose the plan that best fits you.
  4. Pay your bill and then you’re covered!

If you need help, Covered California has a handy tool to help you find local help.

Health insurance is something everyone should have. In fact, it’s the law. You have until December 15th to enroll and get covered by January 1st. But you can enroll up until January 31, 2015. If you have any more questions about Covered California, the site has an informative FAQ that’s a great resource.


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