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Health Care Reform FAQs

Q: What's the Exchange?
A: The Health Insurance Marketplace, sometimes called the Insurance Exchange, offers you a way to choose and purchase a plan if you don’t have health insurance through your employer. By filling out just one online application in the Marketplace, you can compare plans and find health care coverage that meets your needs.

When you fill out an application, you’ll also receive information about whether your income and family size qualify you for discounts on coverage including cost sharing reductions and premium tax credits.

Certain life events, like having a baby, switching jobs, or getting married, may qualify you for a temporary special enrollment period. Visit for more information.

Q: How is insurance coverage going to be different? 
A: The ACA offers a few protections that didn’t exist with health care before. The following protections are in place now, whether you purchase a plan through the new Marketplace or you already have coverage:

  • You’ll get a simple document that clearly explains your benefits and coverage.
  • Your insurance provider can’t cancel your coverage just because you made a mistake on your application.
  • Companies won’t be able to turn you down or raise your rates because of a pre-existing condition.
  • Most children may stay on their parents’ medical plans until age 26.

Q: What will be staying the same?
A: Not everything is changing under the ACA. For instance, if you receive benefits under Medicare or Medicaid, you’ll keep the same coverage and you don’t need to do anything. In fact, even more people may have access to these programs.

Q: Am I required to have health insurance?
A: Yes. The Affordable Care Act requires almost everyone to have health insurance. There are a few exceptions, but beginning in January 2014 most individuals of all ages must have health insurance or pay a penalty.

Q: Will I be penalized if I don’t have insurance? How much is the penalty?
A: Yes. The cost of the fee depends on the size of your family and your income. For lack of coverage during 2018, you pay the higher amount of either:

  • 2.5 percent of your household income or
  • $695 per adult and $347.50 per child under 18 (up to $2,085 per family) 

There are some situations in which you might not have to pay the fee for being uninsured. For example, if you:

  • were uninsured for less than three consecutive months
  • don’t file taxes because your income is below the tax filing threshold

  • weren’t able to find a health plan that costs less than 8 percent of your household income 
  • are American Indian
  • had religious reasons for not purchasing insurance
  • had financial hardship
  • are a member of a Health Care Sharing Ministry

Q: What if I already have coverage through my job?
A: You can still shop at the Marketplace during open enrollment periods. But keep in mind that your employer may not pay part of your premium if you select a different plan. And you may not qualify for the same savings you would if your job didn’t offer insurance.

Q: Will I be able to keep my current health insurance?
A: That depends. The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to sell plans with a number of required benefits that typically exceed the benefits many plans have traditionally included, this is known as the minimum essential benefits under the ACA. Please note that if you have a plan for the year which is not ACA compliant you may have to pay the individual mandate penalty. . The cutoff for insurers to meet the minimum number of benefits had been January 2014, but the deadline was extended by one year.

States have been given the option of extending the deadline even further to include certain catastrophic coverage plans that begin on or before October 1, 2016. This means that if you currently have a policy that does not meet the Affordable Care Act’s minimum guidelines for coverage, and if your insurance carrier decides to continue offering that policy, and if your state decides to extend the deadline, you may be able to keep your plan into the year 2017. To find out if your state has extended the deadline, contact your insurance company or your state’s Department of Health.

If you currently have health insurance through your employer you are covered and do not need to do anything. If you have individual insurance coverage you are now able to evaluate your coverage options on the health insurance marketplace. To learn more about your coverage options, visit

Q: How will the Affordable Care Act impact my health insurance premiums?
A: If you buy or are planning on buying individual insurance, the impact on your premiums depends on a lot of factors including where you live, your age, and your health status. For an estimate of these costs, please use the Health Insurance Subsidy Calculator.

Q: What can I do to reduce my health insurance costs?
A: In order to find out if you qualify for the Advance Premium Tax Credit, you will need to apply to your state’s Health Insurance Marketplace. This tax credit is based on your household income and family size. To find out whether you might qualify for lower premiums, visit The reduced costs would be handled through a federal tax credit that can be applied directly to your monthly premiums. It is important to keep in mind that not everyone can reduce costs by going to the health insurance market place. For many,  the options provided through an employer will be more affordable.

Based on your income and family size, you might also be eligible for free or low-cost care through Medicaid. Alternatively, if you earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid, your children may be eligible for low-cost health coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). If you apply to your state’s Health Insurance Marketplace, you’ll be told if you also qualify for other such insurance programs.

Q: What are the key dates for purchasing health insurance through my state’s Health Insurance Marketplace?
A: Open Enrollment for 2018 is now closed. You can enroll or change plans only if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, visit for more information.

Q: How do I know if I can go to the Health Insurance Marketplace to buy insurance? Where can I buy it?
A: Most people are eligible for health coverage through the Marketplace. You must live in the United States, be a U.S. citizen or national and cannot currently be incarcerated for eligibility.

You can buy health insurance by applying online, over the phone, in person or on paper. Counselors are available to help you select the best plan for your healthcare needs. For more information about purchasing insurance, visit

Q: What if I have a pre-existing condition? Will I be denied coverage?
A: No, health insurance plans cannot refuse to cover you, deny treatment coverage, or charge you more because you have a pre-existing condition.

Q: How are small business affected by health care reform?
A: Although employers do not have to provide health insurance, in 2015 businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees can get health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace’s Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace. This is also true of nonprofit organizations. If a business has fewer than 25 full-time employees who earn an average of about $50,000 a year or less, they may qualify for a tax credit worth up to 50 percent of their share of their employees’ premium costs and up to 35 percent for nonprofits.

Insurance plans cannot reject a small employer based on the health status of its employees or dependents, cannot charge higher premiums for women, and cannot increase the group’s premium for employees with high medical costs.

Q: What about larger businesses?
A: The mandate that businesses with more than 50 full-time employees either provide affordable, minimal health coverage or else pay an assessment has been delayed until 2015.

Q: What if I am self-employed?
A: If you are self-employed and have no employees, you can purchase insurance through the individual Health Insurance Marketplace or continue to buy an individual plan during open enrollment periods. If you have a Qualifying Life Event, such as the birth of a child, a change in income, get married, or get divorced, you may be eligible for a special enrollment period. 

Q: What if I have Medicare do I need to do anything?
A: No. Anyone with Medicare is already covered. Medicare has nothing to do with the Health Insurance Marketplace and there will be no changes to your benefits. So stay on Medicare. If you're already on Medicare, don't let anyone try to sell you a Marketplace insurance plan. It's illegal for them to do so, and you don't need it.

Q: I'm on Medicare but my spouse isn't because he's under 65. How does that affect our access to health insurance coverage?
A: Let's start with you. You're on Medicare, so you're covered. There's nothing you need to do. Your spouse, however, may want to take action.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that most people have health care insurance in 2014. If they don't, they must pay a penalty. The fee is either 2% of the person's yearly household income or $325 per person per year. (The fee will increase each year.) This is paid on the federal income tax form.

If your spouse doesn't have coverage, he or she can receive it from an employer or through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Or, he or she can buy an individual policy on his or her own ñ through a health insurance company that is not on the Marketplace. To use the Marketplace, your spouse must be a United States citizen or national. He or she also must live (unincarcerated) in the United States.

Does your spouse already have health insurance through an employer, or on his or her own? If so, and your spouse is happy with it, no need to do anything. But if the insurance costs too much for your spouse, he or she can look for other coverage ñ either on the Marketplace or on his or her own.

If your spouse buys insurance through the Marketplace, he or she might be able to receive financial help to pay for it. This is called a subsidy, in the form of a tax credit. The credit is applied to monthly premiums, so you'd both see the savings right away. To receive this help, your spouse's total household income must be under 400% of the Federal Poverty Level. For a family of two, that comes out to $62,040. He or she also must meet other eligibility criteria.

For more information about the Affordable Care Act, visit There, you can also find information about Medicare, or visit

Q: I already have Medicaid. Should I do anything?
A: No, if you already have Medicaid your benefits will not change and you do not need to do anything.

There is a new transition to enroll most clients into managed care by january 1, 2018. You must pick a managed care plan or you will be auto assigned to a plan. If you are not satisfied with the auto-assigned plan, you have until March 31, 2018 to switch to a different plan. 

Q: How do I find out if I qualify for Medicaid?
A: Medicaid will now be available to all low-income individuals regardless of parenting or health status. This includes expanding care to former foster children (ages 18-25) who were on Medicaid and exited foster care, and to adults (ages 19-64) without dependent children that are at or below 138% of the federal poverty level.

Those who qualify for Medicaid can complete an online application at HealthChoice Illinois.

Q: Where can I get additional information?
A: Visit the following links for further information about Health Care Reform:

Last updated: November 2017