How is Obamacare going to affect me?

From time to time, I solicit questions on Twitter. The following, edited for clarity and brevity, came by email. Even though the question relates to Veterans Affairs benefits, the answer is more generally applicable.

I receive health benefits from the Veterans Health Administration due to my low income. How is Obamacare going to affect me?

Google is somewhat, but only somewhat, your friend here. A search of “affordable care act veterans benefits” finds many resources that directly answer this question, but at the same time some miss the point.

Having only skimmed a few sites, I think the VA’s “The Affordable Care Act, VA, and You” does a decent job. There you’ll learn

If you are enrolled in any of VA’s programs below, you have coverage under the standards of the health care law:

  • Veteran’s health care program
  • Civilian Health and Medical program (CHAMPVA)
  • Spina bifida health care program You don’t need to do anything more.

The health care law does not change your VA benefits or out-of-pocket costs. You can continue to enjoy VA health care.

That is, your VA care will not go away and you won’t be assessed a penalty. Your VA coverage qualifies as, well, coverage, as do employer-sponsored plans, Medicaid, Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Plan, TRICARE, etc.*

But what if you want to know what else Obamacare could do for you? That page includes some more information and, unlike many others, helpfully, refers you to, which is a consumer-friendly health reform clearinghouse, of sorts. There’s a lot there, so click around. Here are a few links to some particularly relevant pages:

  • What do military veterans need to know about the Marketplace? “Marketplace” here refers to the new, online resources for obtaining coverage, which will be available and different in every state, depending on which insurers provide coverage in which states and whether state Medicaid programs expand or not. Even though you may have VA coverage, you and your family members are also eligible for other coverage through the Marketplace, should you want it.
  • Welcome to the Marketplace. Start here to find out more about the marketplace in your state. It appears that you need to create an account and log in for state-specific details. (I think requiring a log in is a design mistake. If someone is aware of an equivalently or more informative, official site that doesn’t, please tell me in a comment.)
  • Will I qualify for lower costs on monthly premiums? If you have VA or certain other types of coverage, you don’t qualify for premium subsidies. However, your family members may.
  • Do I qualify for Medicaid? You or family members may qualify for Medicaid. Go here to find out.

Finally, if you need or want even more assistance in exploring your options, there will be “Navigators” to help you. I am not aware of a site that can connect you to a Navigator right now (readers, is there one?), but here’s a PDF with a list of organizations that will provide Navigator services, by state. You could find one of these organizations and contact them.

No doubt, there are other good resources or will be. Do not consider the above comprehensive or even the best possible advice (especially if you’re reading this well after the publication date). Keep asking and searching until you find what you need. If it’s not out there now, likely it will be soon, as many sites and means of support are still ramping up. As of this writing, you have several more months to make changes for next year, if you want to.

* I’m unable to find a resource that explains what types of plans would not qualify as coverage. Anyone know of one?


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