Are you Eligible for Low Cost Health Insurance?

May 7th 2016

Health insurance provides a medical safety net for millions in the United States, but there's still a large percentage of people who are uninsured or going bankrupt due to medical costs. You don't have to struggle with paying for health care without the help of insurance because you can't afford health insurance premiums. Instead, explore your options for affordable, low-cost health insurance from the federal government through tax credits or through your state government. 

Medicare
Medicare provides health insurance for the elderly over age 65, as well as people with disabilities. Medicare has a monthly premium that is adjusted based on a number of factors, as it is funded by the money that taxpayers provide through Social Security taxes on income. It is designed to be as low-cost as possible for its members. Medicare is separated into different coverage plans. Medicare Part A is intended for use with hospital visits, as well as facilities like nursing homes and hospices. Part B covers standard health insurance items, such as visiting the doctor and getting essential medical supplies. In addition to Part A and Part B, a Part C plan goes through a private insurer instead of Medicare directly. You get the same Plan A and B benefits, along with prescription drug coverage. Medicare Part D is another way to add drug coverage to your Medicare plan. If your Medicare insurance does not provide you with enough coverage, Medigap insurance is used as a supplement. However, this increases your monthly cost and requires enrollment in Parts A and B at a minimum. 
Tax Credits
Plans purchased through the insurance exchange introduced by the Affordable Care Act are eligible for tax credits under certain financial circumstances. The insurance premiums on some plans offered through the insurance exchanges may not seem feasible, particularly if you're looking at the higher tier plans. When you account for the tax credits, though, they may be the most affordable options for you. While these are referred to as tax credits, you do have the option to apply them to your health insurance plan immediately instead of claiming them on your taxes next year. The eligibility covers anyone within 100 percent to 400 percent of the poverty line. These tax credits do not apply if you have coverage under another health insurance program, like Medicare. The amount you receive in tax credits is based on how close you are to the poverty line and how much you are expected to contribute to your health insurance costs. It is based off of a percentage of income, starting at 2 percent of income for the lowest earners. If you do choose to take the tax credit, you don't need a tax liability to get a refund through the credit, making it worthwhile to look into even if you don't need the liability reduction. 
Medicaid
Medicaid is a low-income health insurance program managed directly by state governments and partially funded by the federal government. This program is intended for those falling under the poverty level, as well as other disadvantaged groups. Those with disabilities, under 133 percent poverty level income, pregnant women and seniors are eligible, depending on the state. Another area of health insurance coverage Medicaid targets is getting children insured. Programs such as CHIP in Pennsylvania provide insurance for any children or teens who do not have established insurance through another program. This insurance is provided on a sliding scale, starting at no cost, and it provides extensive coverage, including dental and vision. Currently, Medicaid is undergoing some expansion to provide coverage for low-income individuals without children, who have not classically been covered under this program. However, states are not required to expand coverage for Medicaid. Generally, each state has its own program that handles their Medicare program, and the application process varies from state to state. 
References:
(1) https://www.medicare.gov/
(2) http://www.cbpp.org/files/QA-on-Premium-Credits.pdf
(3) http://www.ncdhhs.gov/dma/medicaid/who.htm

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