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ObamaCare Info for Alabama

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Obamacare Info for Alabama

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What Alabama Residents Need to Know About Obamacare

Welcome to the fastest way to find out about Obamacare in Alabama.

Here, you'll find clear and accurate information about Obamacare, including:

  • whether or not you must get health insurance
  • what the available plans cover
  • how much coverage will cost, and
  • how to sign up for a plan.

To begin, keep in mind these key points about Obamacare in Alabama:

1. You must have health insurance, unless you qualify for an exemption.

The Affordable Care Act requires you to enroll in a health insurance plan unless you qualify for an exemption from the law. You will report whether you have coverage -- or whether you are exempt -- when you file your taxes in April.

Open enrollment for 2014 has ended, but you may still be able to get coverage if you qualify for a special enrollment period. If you don't, you must wait until the next open enrollment period to sign up for coverage. For coverage beginning in 2015, open enrollment is scheduled to run from November 15, 2014 to February 15, 2015.

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Do I Have to Get Obamacare in Alabama?

Despite what you may have heard, you can’t be arrested or thrown in jail if you don’t have health insurance in Alabama. You may, however, be forced to pay a tax penalty if you aren't enrolled in a health insurance plan that meets the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

To avoid the penalty, you must either obtain qualified health coverage or prove your eligibility for an exception.

What Qualifies as Coverage?

If you have any of the following types of health coverage, you won’t have to pay a penalty:

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How Much Does Obamacare Cost in Alabama?

This article explains the costs of health care plans offered under Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act of 2014) for individuals or families who are currently uninsured or not covered by a job-based health plan.

What you'll pay for an Obamacare plan depends on five things:

  1. The level of coverage you choose
  2. Whether you qualify for a subsidy
  3. Where you live in Alabama
  4. Your age
  5. Whether you smoke

Read on to learn more about each of these factors. For a sneak peek at the actual rates and providers in your county, click here.

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How Do I Sign Up for Obamacare in Alabama?

The easiest way to sign up for a health plan under the Affordable Care Act is to go to the online health insurance marketplace for Alabama. If you're not ready to enroll right now, you can get more information online, over the phone, or in person.

Where's the Alabama Health Care Exchange?

You can find the health insurance exchange for Alabama at HealthCare.gov. This is where you can learn about the various health insurance options available to you under Obamacare. If you see a plan you like, you'll be guided through the enrollment process online.

If you prefer to apply with a paper form, you can find the links to those forms here. Be aware, however, that the paper application will take longer. Personnel who review your form must type your information into the same online system that you would use at HealthCare.gov.

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Five Things to Know About Signing Up for Obamacare in Alabama in 2015

Did you purchase health coverage through the Alabama health exchange last year? If not, are you still uninsured? If you answered yes to either question, you'll want to know these important facts about the next Obamacare open enrollment period.

1. For 2015, open enrollment starts later and ends sooner.

This year, the Obamacare enrollment period is three months shorter than it was last year. For 2015, you can enroll in a new marketplace plan -- or change your existing plan -- from November 15, 2014 through February 15, 2015.

If you want or need new coverage beginning January 1, you should sign up by December 15.

2. Automatic enrollment isn't as good as it sounds.

If you purchased an individual or family plan through the marketplace last year and you do nothing this year, you’ll probably be automatically re-enrolled in your current plan for 2015. Auto enrollment sounds handy, but it could lead to a number of unpleasant surprises: your monthly premium may change, your eligibility for subsidies may fall out of date, or you may even be automatically enrolled in a different plan if your insurer stops offering your existing coverage.

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Understanding Obamacare's Preventive Health Care Benefits

Get a colonoscopy, mammogram, vaccinations, and other essential services for free

The Affordable Care Act requires health insurance plans to offer certain preventive care services free of charge -- or more accurately, for nothing more than the cost of your monthly insurance premiums. This rule applies to most plans sold directly by insurance companies and all plans sold through HealthCare.gov, the health care marketplace for Alabama. Covered preventive services are available for free (meaning no co-pay or other out-of-pocket charges) whether or not you’ve met your plan’s annual deductible.

Tips for Using Your Preventive Care Benefits – And Avoiding Unexpected Charges

Below, you’ll find a list of free preventive benefits -- screening tests, counseling services, and vaccinations -- for adults, women, and kids. But first, here are some pointers to help you avoid an unexpected bill for services you thought were preventive.

Use a network provider. To get a preventive service for free, you must use a health care provider in your insurance plan’s network.

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Medicaid Expansion: Can I Use Medicaid to Satisfy the Health Insurance Requirement in Alabama?

One way to satisfy the Obamacare requirement that you have health insurance is to obtain coverage under Medicaid. If you qualify for Medicaid and enroll in Alabama's Medicaid program, you do not have to sign up for another insurance plan.

Alabama Has Not Expanded Medicaid

The Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid eligibility to cover more people who can’t afford health insurance. The U.S. Supreme Court later decided that it was up to individual states to decide whether or not to expand Medicaid. Because Alabama has not yet to chosen to expand Medicaid eligibility, you may have fewer options for health coverage than people in states where Medicaid is growing.

Do You Qualify for Medicaid?

Each state has its own rules for Medicaid eligibility. Whether you qualify depends on your income level and other factors. To find out whether you are eligible for Medicaid under Alabama's existing rules, contact the Alabama Medicaid office. You can also find out whether you qualify when you apply for health insurance at HealthCare.gov. more...  

Can I Use a Paper Application to Get Obamacare?

When Obamacare launched, the federal and state health insurance marketplaces (also called “exchanges”) were plagued by technical troubles. Many people who tried to sign up for new health insurance plans online in the early days were unable to complete their applications.

Because of these difficulties, some individuals and application assistants turned to the old-fashioned way of getting health insurance -- paper applications.

Applying on Paper May Not Be Better or Faster

When facing a slow or broken online health insurance exchange, using a paper application may seem tempting -- at least it would provide the feeling of getting something done. However, paper forms may not speed up the process at all. On the contrary, they could slow down your application even more.

The worker who reviews your paper application must manually enter the information from your forms into the same system you would use online at your state’s exchange. It won’t work any faster for them than it does for you. Plus, using a paper application opens up more opportunity for error by putting more people between you and your goal of getting insurance.

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What to Do If Your Health Insurance Policy Was Cancelled Under Obamacare

Updated: March 5, 2014

If you received a notice from your health insurance company saying your insurance plan has been cancelled, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans have learned they may not be able keep their existing health coverage under Obamacare. Cancellation is primarily affecting those who purchase individual insurance plans, such as the self-employed, but some people employed by small businesses are losing their existing coverage, too.

The Obama administration, Congress, and insurance providers have engaged in a strenuous debate over whether the cancellations will stand or whether some individuals will be allowed to continue coverage under their cancelled plans for another year or more. On March 5, 2014, the Obama administration announced that you can keep your cancelled policy through 2016. The catch is that state insurance officials must agree to this extension. So far, about half the states have decided to allow renewals, while the rest have decided against them.

To learn whether you may have the option of keeping your existing plan, contact your insurance provider. 

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Obamacare for Self-Employed Alabama Residents

Many self-employed people will be quick to tell you that getting and paying for health insurance is one of the biggest hassles they face. But this may change for the better under Obamacare, which provides new coverage options for the self-employed.

Are You Self-Employed or an Employer? 

Before you start evaluating your options for health coverage, you need understand whether you are in fact considered self-employed under Obamacare.

The law says you are self-employed if you are an independent contractor or a sole proprietor without employees. (If you hire other independent contractors to do some work for you, you probably still qualify as self-employed.) Self-employed people can use the new health care marketplace to purchase individual health insurance plans.

If you have employees – usually, workers whose income you report on a W-2 at the end of the year -- you’re considered an employer. In that case, you can learn about purchasing health insurance for yourself and your employees through the SHOP Marketplace.

If you aren’t sure whether the people who work for you are independent contractors or employees, read "Independent Contractor (Self-Employed) or Employee?" on the IRS website.

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How Obamacare Affects Unemployed Alabama Residents

The difficulties of unemployment are often compounded by the lack or loss of health insurance. But millions of Americans who are currently without both a job and health coverage may find relief under Obamacare. That's because new coverage options are now available through HealthCare.gov, the health insurance marketplace serving Alabama.

All plans available through the marketplace offer essential medical benefits, including preventive care, emergency services, and prescription drug coverage. You can't be turned away if you have a pre-existing medical condition and, as an unemployed person, you probably qualify for significant cost-saving subsidies.

When you sign up for a marketplace health plan, your coverage can start within a few weeks. Usually, you must sign up during an open enrollment period. (For 2014, open enrollment closed on March 31. The next open enrollment period begins on November 15.) But leaving your job and losing job-based health insurance makes you eligible for a special enrollment period. That means you'll have 60 days to sign up for a new health plan. 

Here's an overview of your options for health insurance if you are unemployed, plus more information about what might happen if you don't get insurance.

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Obamacare for Alabama Small Businesses

As a business owner, you may have heard the buzz about Obamacare’s “employer mandate.” Maybe you’re still wondering what it is and whether it applies to you. The short answer is that if you have fewer than 50 full-time-equivalent (FTE) employees, you don’t have to worry about the employer mandate. (For a definition of FTE, see the end of this article.) The mandate requires only larger companies to offer health coverage to employees.

That said, there are plenty of important things for owners of smaller businesses to know about Obamacare. Here’s a summary of key points for Alabama business owners who have between one and 49 employees:

You aren’t legally required to offer health insurance to your employees. If you have fewer than 50 FTEs, whether or not to provide coverage is entirely up to you.

You may be legally required to notify your employees about Obamacare. Whether or not you choose to provide insurance, if your business is covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, you must notify all your employees about Obamacare’s basic provisions.(The original deadline for notifying current employees was October 1, 2013; after that all new hires must be notified.) The U.S. Department of Labor has published sample notices you can use. There’s no penalty under the law for failing to provide notice.

To learn whether or not the FLSA applies to your business, see this helpful article from Nolo.com.

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Do You Have More Than 50 Employees? Understanding Obamacare's Employer Mandate

Soon, businesses that employ 50 or more full-time-equivalent (FTE) workers will have to offer insurance coverage or face a tax penalty, called the "employer shared responsibility payment." This law, known as Obamacare's "employer mandate" will take effect in 2015 or 2016, depending on the size of the business.

Employers with 100 or more full-time employees will have to offer coverage to at least 70% of eligible workers in 2015. That number jumps to 95% in 2016. Employers who employ 50 to 99 full-time workers do not have to comply with the law until 2016.

The employer mandate will apply to your business if even one of your employees would qualify for cost-saving health insurance subsidies through HealthCare.gov, the health insurance marketplace for Alabama.

For example, say you employ 105 full-time workers and don't offer a qualifying health plan. If just one of those workers can buy an individual health insurance plan at HealthCare.gov and qualify for reduced premiums with Obamacare's tax credit, you'll have to pay a penalty -- and it could be a hefty one. 

On the other hand, if you offer coverage to your employees that is considered affordable and meets the legal requirements for coverage, your employees wouldn't be able to save money by purchasing an individual plan in the marketplace, so you won’t have to pay the penalty.

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How an Insurance Agent or Broker Can Help You Sign Up for Obamacare

If you’re confused by your health care choices under Obamacare -- or if you’re having a difficult time completing an application -- there are many ways to get help. For example, you can call the Alabama health insurance exchange for telephone support or obtain free, in-person guidance from trained assisters or “navigators.” You can also seek help from a licensed insurance agent or broker.

Given the technical flaws in many online health care marketplaces, getting help from an agent or broker is an attractive option for many people. Agents and brokers, while grappling with most of the same delays and hassles faced by individuals, can make the process easier in several important ways, including:

  • determining whether you qualify for subsidies
  • helping you compare plan prices and coverage details, while explaining any complicated features or terms
  • recommending plans that would be best for you (government assisters are not permitted to suggest specific plans), and
  • walking you through the application process.

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What Domestic Partners Need to Know About Applying for Health Insurance Under Obamacare

When registered domestic partners or civil union partners apply for coverage in the new health insurance marketplace, there’s one question that almost always arises: Do we apply based on our separate incomes, or must we include all the income we make as a couple?

The answer depends on the state where you live.

States other than California, Nevada, or Washington. In almost all states, registered domestic partners or civil union partners who apply for insurance via the state’s health insurance exchange must do so separately. Each partner includes only his or her separate income, and this amount determines health plan costs and eligibility for cost-saving subsidies. It works this way because domestic partners are not considered married for federal tax purposes. (If you registered first and got legally married later, this article doesn't apply to you. You must apply as a married person and report your combined income.)

California, Nevada, or Washington. In these states, which extend community property laws to registered domestic partners, domestic partners must usually apply using half of the partners’ combined incomes. (We confirmed this with the legal department at Covered California after repeatedly receiving conflicting information from representatives staffing the exchange’s customer service phone line.) This is because IRS rules require that domestic partners registered in these community property states report half of their combined community income on their federal taxes each year.

Sometimes, this reporting requirement will have the unfortunate effect of rendering a lower-earning partner ineligible for health insurance subsidies.

Example: Caroline and Susan are registered domestic partners in California. Caroline makes $80,000 per year and Susan earns $30,000 per year. When they apply for health insurance at Covered California, they will complete separate applications but must each include $55,000 of community income (half of their combined community income of $110,000). Neither partner will qualify for premium-lowering subsidies, which are generally available for individuals earning less than about $46,000 per year. If Caroline and Susan were able to apply separately, Susan would have qualified for premium assistance in the form of tax credits.

The only case in which domestic partners registered in community property states would not apply based on combined income is that in which the partners signed a valid pre-registration agreement (like a “prenup”) before registering, in which they opted out of the community property system by agreeing to keep all property separate.

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About This Website

We built this website to get people the answers they need about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Our goal is to guide you to reliable, local information about your new health insurance options.

When you choose your state or enter your zip code above, you will quickly learn:

  • whether or not you're required to get health insurance

  • what the available plans cover

  • how much coverage will cost, and

  • how to sign up in your state.

For those concerned about cost, we show you how to determine whether you qualify for subsidies. We also explain the new rules about expanded Medicaid eligibility.

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