What California Residents Need to Know About Obama Care (the Affordable Care Act or ACA)

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What California Residents Need to Know About Obamacare

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What California Residents Need to Know About Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has not been repealed. You are still required to comply with the ACA and you are still entitled to its benefits.

This website provides information about getting health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including:

To begin, keep in mind these key points about health insurance in California:

1. For 2018, you are legally required to have health insurance unless you qualify for an exemption. This will change next year.

For 2018, the Affordable Care Act requires you to enroll in a health insurance plan unless you qualify for an exemption from the law. You must report whether you have coverage -- or whether you are exempt -- when you file your taxes in April.

For 2019, the law will no longer require you to have health coverage. It remains to be seen how this will affect health plans offered under the Affordable Care Act.

To learn whether your current health plan satisfies the requirements of the Affordable Care Act or to find out whether you qualify for an exemption, see Do I Need to Get Obamacare in California?

2. Open enrollment has ended for 2018 health care plans, but you can still get health insurance if you qualify for a special enrollment period.

For 2018, California's open enrollment period ended on January 31. This means that, unless you qualify for an exception, you can't obtain health insurance through Covered California until the 2019 open enrollment period begins in the fall of 2018.

To find out more, including ways you might still get covered, see What Happens If I Missed the California Obamacare Enrollment Deadline?

3. Tax credits are still available to save you money.

Many people who sign up for insurance at the California exchange will be eligible for cost savings. For 2018 health insurance plans, savings are available in the form of tax credits to help you lower your premiums.

In addition, if your income is very low, you may qualify for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid in California.

For more information, see Ways to Save Money on Obamacare in California.

4. California was prepared for the loss of federal subsidies for insurers, so your premiums probably won't be affected.

On October 12, 2017, the Trump administration ended subsidies for insurers called "cost-sharing reductions." These payments to insurance companies allowed them to reduce deductibles and co-payments for Americans with incomes between 100% and 250% of the federal poverty level.

In the long run, this decision could destabilize the Affordable Care Act's insurance marketplaces. For 2018 coverage, however, many people's pocketbooks may escape direct effects because tax credits will increase to cover the damages. In California, for example, regulators stayed ahead of Trump's game by adding a surcharge to certain plans sold through Covered California. Additional tax credits will take care of the surcharge for those who qualify.

Those who do NOT qualify for tax credits through Covered California can avoid the surcharge by purchasing their 2018 health plan directly from an insurance company rather than from Covered California.

For more information, see this press release from Covered California.

A health insurance agent or broker may be your best bet for sorting out your coverage options. To find one, see How To Sign Up for Obamacare in California.

5. You can get help signing up if you need it. 

You may have heard that it will be more difficult to find enrollment help this year. That's because the Trump administration has drastically cut funding for the programs that provide enrollment help in many states. The good news is that California doesn't rely on federal funding for its outreach and enrollment assistance programs.

For the help resources available to you, see Get Help Finding a Health Insurance Plan in California.

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