Your Daily News Guide to Obamacare: Finding a perfect plan

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Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News

Susan Scott is shopping for an affordable health care plan under Obamacare.

Picking a healthcare plan is rarely a picnic.

Susan Scott, a freelance greeting card and textile designer, has spent hours checking out new plans available through New York State’s healthcare exchange, comparing copays, deductibles and premiums.

But Scott, 59, has found the work worth it. She has honed in on a Fidelis plan for about $ 390 a month. While it doesn’t include all the doctors or hospitals she’d wish for, the premiums are less than half the cost of comparable plans she has bought in the past, and the plan provides better coverage than a cheaper “catastrophic” plan she has now that only protects her in dire situations.

“I’m so relieved and happy to have these new options,” Scott said. “It’s definitely an improvement for New Yorkers.”

RELATED: YOUR DAILY NEWS GUIDE TO OBAMACARE: MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS

The exchange — NY State of Health — offers one-stop comparison shopping for people who need to buy their own insurance.

Making the right choices, though, still takes homework.

For freelancers and independent contractors, calculating something basic — how much you make — can be a challenge. It’s key, though, for finding out if you’re eligible for certain cost-cutting programs, said Elisabeth Benjamin, vice president of health initiatives at Community Service Society of NY. You can find out if you can get Medicaid — for example, a family of four making less than around $ 33,000 a year.You’ll also be able to determine your eligibility for subsidies that can significantly lower the cost of a healthcare plan you buy on the exchange.

On the exchange, families making below four times the federal poverty limit — about $ 94,200 a year for a family of four — can get tax credits that trim the cost of their premiums. Those making less than 2.5% of the limit can get help with cost-sharing, as well.

RELATED: YOUR DAILY NEWS GUIDE TO OBAMACARE: OSCAR’S NEW TAKE ON INSURANCE

“I’m so relieved and happy to have these new options,” Scott said. “It’s definitely an improvement for New Yorkers.”

Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News

“I’m so relieved and happy to have these new options,” Scott said. “It’s definitely an improvement for New Yorkers.”

Prices for the plans in the exchange are already about 50% less than what you would pay for them on the open market, Benjamin said. “Before you even apply the subsidies, it has already worked profoundly for customers in New York State.”

“It’s really important to have a handle on your income,” said Benjamin, adding shoppers should calculate their pre-tax income, a total often found oncan check Line 37 of their tax return.

All of the plans in the exchange must cover certain basic services, such as hospital visits and maternity care, but you’ll have to decide among four tiers of coverage — bronze, silver, gold and platinum.

The tiers differ in terms of how much you pay upfront and how much you’ll pay when you get services. Bronze plans have the lowest premiums and the highest cost sharing, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, while platinum plans are at the opposite end.

RELATED: YOUR DAILY NEWS GUIDE TO OBAMACARE: GETTING STARTED AND GETTING INSURED

While it’s tempting to pay the least each month, consider your costs if you get sick.

“Take a look at the deductible and ask yourself, ‘If something happened to me, could I come up with that?’ It doesn’t take much — a fracture or whiplash — to rack up healthcare bills that are in the thousands of dollars” said Karen Pollitz, senior fellow, Kaiser Family Foundation. The maximum amount you’ll pay out of pocket also varies based on your tier of plan, ranging for an individual from $ 4,000 on a platinum plan to $ 6350 for a bronze.

Premium tax credits can be applied to any tier plan, but those eligible for help with cost-sharing need to choose a silver plan.

Subsidies don’t apply to the catastrophic plans available to people under 30 and certain others.

You’ll want to check if your current doctors accept plans you’re considering, and check what each company charges for any medications you take.

elazarowitz@nydailynews.com


Health – NY Daily News

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