That's a great question and many people in your situation have been wondering about this. The good news is if you are already covered by Medicare you are all set. You needn't worry about the new health insurance marketplaces or make any changes to your existing coverage.
Alex, for most people that do not sign up for insurance, they will face a tax penalty. That penalty is $95 for an individual, or 1 percent of income, whichever is higher, in the first year. And it climbs higher after 2014. However, if you cannot afford the health insurance that is available, there are some exemptions under the law called "hardship" exemptions for people who have incomes that are too low to afford insurance. If you meet this "hardship" exemption, you will not have to pay the tax penalty i just described. For example, if your income is too low to require you to file a tax return, you would qualify for this exemption. Or, if the lowest cost plan available to you is more than 8 percent of your income.
Thanks for the tip, Cynd!
Many people are experiencing higher costs associated with their health plans. As Dean pointed out in an earlier response, there are a number of changes brought about by the new law that are causing this.
It's not ideal, but in my view the reason to bother is that if you face some kind of medical emergency in the gap before you qualify for Medicare, you're still getting financial protection from endless medical bills. Still, it's personal decision and everyone has to make a determination about whether or not the high cost is worth it.
Unfortunately Georgia is one of the states that did not expand their Medicaid program. As written, the Affordable Care Act required all states to expand their Medicaid program for people up to 138% of the federal poverty level (about $16,000) with the federal government paying the full share of the cost. The Supreme Court struck down this requirement, however, and made it optional for states. Because your state did not expand its Medicaid program, you may not be eligible for Medicaid (you should still check with your marketplace, however, to confirm). Because your income is so low that you do not need to file taxes, you will probably not qualify for a federal subsidy to pay for private insurance either. Because the law assumed states would expand their Medicaid programs, the federal subsidies were only made available for people between 100% and 400% of the poverty level. Because you do not file taxes, however, you will not be subject to any tax penalty for not having insurance. A small consolation, I know.
You should double check and see whether you in fact do qualify under your parents' medical insurance. The ACA requires all plans to allow children age 26 and younger to enroll in their parents' health plan-- if they have one. But, if not, or if this is a short-term solution, you definitely should not fall through the cracks. You can go to your state's health insurance marketplace and check out your options. If you do not have an income, or have a low income, you should also qualify for some kind of subsidy. You may even qualify for your state's Medicaid program, which likely will mean even greater support to help you get insurance coverage.
If you are a legal immigrant you can be covered by Medicaid if your income qualifies you AND you've been in the country for 5 years. Otherwise, you are eligible to receive subsidies to lower the cost of a private health insurance plan you purchase through the new health insurance Marketplace.
Plans actually had to make decisions as to whether they would participate in the marketplace this spring and summer, well before the website is launched. So, although the website launch has been a fiasco, it is not responsible for the number of plans participating. In general, rural areas have a much smaller availability of health plans because it is harder for plans to contract with specific providers to form their network. So if you live in a rural area, there are going to be fewer plans available than in an urban area, regardless of the marketplace. Plans may be for hesitant to participate in states using the federal marketplace, rather than states that chose to run their own. Florida is not running its own marketplace.