In a series of nationwide focus groups conducted by Intuit TurboTax®, a majority of consumers who participated lacked awareness of their new health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act, sometimes referred to as "Obamacare". In addition, a most of them did not know if they would qualify for financial assistance to help cover the cost of health insurance.
“The majority of families need to understand this will likely impact their monthly budget in some way”
In October 2013, federal and state Health Insurance Marketplaces are scheduled to open and an estimated 30 million uninsured Americans will need to make healthcare decisions that will impact both their personal and financial well being.
TurboTax now provides a simple, free online health care calculator, available on the TurboTax Blog, that helps people understand whether they may be eligible to purchase insurance through the new Marketplaces and if they qualify for financial assistance.
"Consumers who take a more active role in their healthcare decisions get the best outcome for both their health and their wallet," explains Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, Health Economist (www.healthpopuli.com) and Advisor to the American Tax & Financial Center at TurboTax. "We encourage Americans to be engaged in their healthcare decisions starting now. Research shows that Americans spend much more time researching the purchase of an automobile compared with seeking information on picking their personal physician. Isn't it worth investing a few hours over the next few months to get the best health care for you and your family?"
Balancing care and out of pocket expenses
The need to engage now in healthcare is especially critical for individuals and families who will fund health insurance through a combination of government subsidy (delivered as a tax credit starting in 2015) and monthly out of pocket expenses.
Based on analysis by the American Tax & Financial Center at TurboTax, a family of four earning roughly $50,000 would be eligible for an estimated $7,500 subsidy beginning in 2014, which would cover approximately 70 percent of their insurance premium. In this case, the family would be responsible for paying the remaining monthly premium of approximately $282 per month.
"The majority of families need to understand this will likely impact their monthly budget in some way," added Sarasohn-Kahn. "U.S. consumers need to take on the role of 'health consumers' as they assume more responsibilities for choosing health plans based on the level of services covered by a health plan compared to the costs of the premiums and copayments under the different plans being considered."
For the estimated 40 percent of households living paycheck-to-paycheck, the additional monthly payment for healthcare may seem out of reach. However, families will need to weigh the benefits of preventive care, and the potential costs of emergencies and existing chronic conditions managed by people in their families. In 2010, the average cost of an emergency room visit was $1,349.
While implementations of the new health care law don't begin until October, this is a good time to start understanding it and preparing. For more information on the Affordable Care Act and its financial impact, visit the American Tax & Financial Center at TurboTax.