On Tuesday, the federal government's health care law ("Obamacare," as it has been cutely coined) will open for business.
Despite all the fire and brimstone from some Republicans who want to repeal this law, you can now safely assume that Obamacare is the law of the land.
All Americans will be impacted by the law; it changes the market landscape for health care, offering new cost packages and health care avenues. Nearly all Americans will be required to have health insurance starting Jan. 1, 2014, or else they'll be liable for a tax penalty (this penalty will be small, but will be a penalty nonetheless).
But the facts are murky for the average American, especially given all the political rhetoric. With only days until the law launches, even the simplest questions are now being asked: If you get Obamacare, how much will you pay? And who qualifies for subsidized insurance? Many have no clear idea of how much their insurance tab would run.
The federal government, with Obamacare, has basically created a top-shelf, middle-shelf, lower-shelf health care division that did not otherwise exist across the nation before the law. The cost of Obamacare plans depends upon the quality of plan you choose to purchase.
You get what you pay for.
Here's how the price would shake out per month.
The least expensive plan, the Bronze plan, covers 60% of out of pocket health care costs and offers basic coverage (in other words it has a 60% actuarial value). Plans range from the basic "Bronze" (60%) to "Silver" (70%) to "Gold" (80%) and "Platinum" (90%) level plans. Each plan has progressively better benefits and networks and is also progressively more expensive. High-end plans carry a 40% excise tax which helps pay for the program.
The average nationwide price of a Bronze plan is $249 a month before cost-assistance (and you have to qualify for cost-assistance).
The total annual fee for not buying insurance can't be more than the average price of a Bronze plan.
Obamacare is not government-funded. Each plan operates with a private health agency. Obamacare regulates insurance, but you will still purchuse private plans.
Bronze plans for individuals are expected to cost between $4,500 and $5,800 a year in 2016. But if you make less than four times the Federal poverty line (about $45,000 for an individual in 2012), you’ll pay less by virtue of receiving tax credits. Someone making up to 133% of the Federal poverty live will get credits so that his or her net payment will be only 2% of income, while those making 300% to 400% of FPL will pay 9.5% of the Federal poverty line.
A calculator produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation in collaboration with NPR allows shoppers to find out if they qualify for subsidized insurance coverage or Medicaid.
BUT WAIT!!! I'm Under 30, So How Much Do I Pay?
The Obama administration is making an special push to get young people (those under the age of 35) involved in the federal health care law.
One of the key mechanics of Obamacare is that it relies on young people purchusing health care, which in turn evens out the whole of the health care market landscape for other age groups.
The problem is: Young people typically, historically don't buy health care.
This generation is for the most part healthy and only really gets health care as a safety net (and likely because their mom bugs the hell out of them to do it). Health care isn't really a priority for this demographic.
A myth has circulated that Obamacare will be unfair to young people, forcing them to pay higher prices than they otherwise would under the current health care market.
It's true that premiums will likely rise for some young adults, particularly men. But that doesn't take two important considerations into account: federal subsidies and more comprehensive coverage.
In Indianapolis, for example, the sticker price for the cheapest Bronze plan for a 27-year-old male will be $204. Right now, he can get a policy for as little as $52.50, according to eHealthInsurance, an online marketplace. In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the least expensive Bronze plan will cost $128, compared to $66 currently.
But those comparisons are very misleading, as they do not take out-of-pocket costs and coverage limits into account. Current health plans for young people have very high deductibles ($10,000 each for the Indianapolis and Fort Lauderdale plans) and don't cover mental health, brand-name drugs or pre-natal care.
"Part of the problem with these plans is that people think they are insured until something bad happens and then they find out they aren't covered," said Linda Blumberg, senior fellow at The Urban Institute, in an interview with CNN.
The Obamacare plans are "real insurance," not something that doesn't work when you actually need it. Therefore, you're paying real money for these plans, as oppossed to just throwing your money into a false sense of security.