Health Insurance 101: How to Enroll in the California Health Insurance Exchange

It’s the morning of October 1st, 2013.  You’ve done your research, you know Obamacare is here.  You have evaluated your options based on your current health plan, and you’d like to see what all the fuss is about with this California health insurance exchange.  How do you actually enroll?

The first step in enrolling in the California health insurance exchange is to evaluate whether or not the exchange is the best option for you.  Remember, the exchange is the only way for you to get a health insurance subsidy.  How do you qualify for a subsidy? Your household income must be less than 400% of the Federal Poverty Line.  Most people don’t have the Federal Poverty Line memorized, so luckily there will be sources to do this for you.  Covered California will have an iPad application and there will be calculators on the web, similar to this one from the Kaiser Foundation and this one from UC Berkeley.  Even better- your health insurance agent will complete these calculations for you.  The health insurance subsidy is based on family size and household income (line item 38 on your tax return.)  For 2014 enrollment, it will be a bit tricky as you must use projected 2014 income.  Your tax advisor will have some tips on how to properly estimate future income.

Once you plug in all the appropriate figures, you will be provided with a subsidy amount.  This is the figure you can take to the health insurance exchange- now it’s time to go shopping!  The Affordable Care Act stipulates that the health insurance subsidy amount will be based on the second-lowest cost Silver plan available.  This means if you want to drop down to a Bronze plan, you will likely get a higher percentage of the premium subsidized, and if you want to move up to a Gold or Platinum plan, you will likely have to pay more.  This is where your insurance agent will come in.  The best plan for you won’t necessarily be the lowest priced plan.  Inside the exchange, it will be very important to consider the available network of doctors, as well as the level of coverage as compared to any pre-existing conditions you may have.  Remember, all health insurance is now guaranteed issue, so while you cannot be declined for a previous condition you may already have, you will still want to match your condition, and thus your usage, with the plan best suited to cover that condition.

Once you have selected a plan and are comfortable with the coverage and the premium, all that’s left is the application.  You will be able to complete it either via paper form or online, and your coverage will be effective January 1, 2014.  Do not cancel your existing coverage in the meantime! You will still need coverage from October 1 through December 31.  If you happen to change your mind, not to worry, as you can repeat the process and change plans before the California health insurance Open Enrollment period expires.

Millions of people will be replicating this process during the course of open enrollment.  If you want to get a head start on your Obamacare subsidy calculations, you can pre-register here.  This will allow Quotebroker to have your information on file and save you time during California’s health insurance open enrollment this fall.

What happens if you do not qualify for the California health insurance exchange, or do not want to enroll inside the exchange?  Your guide to why you might want to avoid the exchange starts here.

**As always, this information is up to date as of the date of publishing.  As the law is still being interpreted, new regulations are passed down every day and this information is subject to change. Quotebroker will make all efforts to keep you informed of these changes.

*For further information or to speak to a licensed professional, please visit