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Health exchange shopping tips for uninsured boomers and early retirees

Published 9:45am Friday, September 6, 2013

Dear Savvy Senior,

At age 62, I will be retiring at the end of the year and plan to enroll in Obamacare until my Medicare kicks in. Can you offer me any advice on choosing a plan?

- Almost retired

Dear Almost,

The new health insurance exchanges – also known as Obamacare – that begin in 2014 will have a significant impact on millions of Americans who need health insurance, especially pre-Medicare retirees and uninsured baby boomers who often have a difficult time finding affordable coverage.

To help ensure you get the best health insurance coverage that fits your needs, here are some things you should know.

Health exchange overview

Starting Oct. 1, you will be able to shop for health insurance policies, and enroll in one directly through your state’s Health Insurance Marketplace website, over the phone, via mail or in person at a designated center. The coverage will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.

You can also be reassured to know that federal law prohibits marketplace insurers from denying you coverage or charging you higher rates if you have a pre-existing health condition. But they are permitted to set premiums up to three times higher for applicants over the age of 50, and smokers may be charged up to 50 percent more than nonsmokers.

To help make coverage affordable, sliding scale tax-credits will be available if you earn less than 400 percent of the poverty level – that’s $45,960 for a single person and $62,040 for couples. These tax-credit subsidies will provide immediate savings off your monthly premiums. See the Kaiser Family Foundation online calculator (kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator) for a premium estimate. 

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