When I was laid off from a job in 2009, I found myself scrambling to figure out how to get health insurance once my COBRA benefits ran out: private plans were significantly out of my price range, but I knew I shouldn’t be without it. I would have (shamefully) gone a few months without insurance, but I found a new job quickly and was luckily able to get on my employer’s plan.
Back then, being uninsured meant that an accident could have spelled financial ruin for me. But soon, going without health insurance is more than just unwise: you will be penalized for it. The Affordable Care Act requires most U.S. citizens and legal residents to buy health insurance or pay a penalty beginning in 2014.
But what if you can’t afford it?
You’re probably familiar with getting health insurance through a government-sponsored health plan (such as Medicare, Medicaid, Tri-Care, or CHIP), or through your employer, or from a private plan.
But what if you don’t qualify for -- or have access to -- health insurance through one of these means? With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, you may purchase health insurance through a health insurance exchange. An exchange is a state-sponsored “marketplace” in which you will have access to a variety of health insurance options. If your state does not have a state-sponsored exchange, a federally-sponsored exchange will be available to you.