Smart SpendingSmart Spending

How to shop for an Obamacare policy

Picking your own health insurance means a complex shopping experience that will involve choices and hard decisions.

By Mitch Lipka Aug 26, 2013 11:36AM
Insurance Money © Comstock Images, JupiterimagesWhen it comes to shopping online, few purchase decisions will carry the magnitude of the one you'll make if you buy health insurance under Obamacare.

Open enrollment starts in just over a month, on Oct. 1, for policies that would take effect on Jan. 1, 2014. So, if you need health insurance, it's time to start familiarizing yourself with the Affordable Care Act.

Shopping for health insurance will become considerably different than it is today for most Americans, allowing consumers to shop through an online health insurance marketplace. There, you'll be able to compare prices as well as decide how big a deductible you'd like and how much of a co-pay you're willing to take on.

Buying health insurance isn't as simple as choosing between Nike and Adidas. And you have to live with the decision you make until the next open enrollment period.

3 basic levels
Making the choice is going to involve some thought, because a lot of options are going to be on the table. In Massachusetts, which already has a health insurance marketplace and serves as something of a model for other states and the federal government, insurance is offered in tiers -- gold, silver and bronze -- to help consumers sort out the choices.

Bronze is the least expensive, but has larger co-pays and bigger deductibles, than the more costly gold plan. There are also levels for each tier, giving consumers additional options to, say, shave off some of the monthly premium cost by accepting higher co-pays. Prices will be shown for each insurer at each level.

So, picking through the plans involves some thought and decision-making based on how much you're willing to pay on a monthly basis balanced with how much risk you're willing to take in case of a serious illness or injury or the amount extra you would have to pay for frequent doctor visits.

Differences among companies

Once you've sorted through the issue of price versus deductible and co-pay, the next step is comparing insurers. As similar as the plans might be, cost is unlikely to be the only difference between companies. This is an area where it is vital for consumers to do some homework.
Why? Not every provider accepts every insurance plan. Be sure your doctor, if you'd like to keep that doctor, accepts the plan you're considering. And if you don't care whether you're doctor is on any particular plan, still check the provider directory of a plan you're considering to see what doctors are available to you.

Some plans could have considerably thinner participation in certain areas, and that's something you don't want to find out when you actually need to use your insurance. The carriers who offer the fewest options for coverage tend to also cost the least, so don't use price as the sole determining factor.

For those who have health insurance through an employer, these choices won't be relevant. But for those who are self-employed have been gambling by not having health insurance, or couldn't get a policy because of a pre-existing condition, shopping in the new marketplace will be an opportunity. Just be sure to take the time to compare, and understand the decisions you're making.

More from MSN Money:

Aug 26, 2013 3:18PM
Why can't we all get the same health care plans that the US Congress has, with no pre-existing conditions, and much cheaper than Obamacare?
Aug 26, 2013 3:25PM

You expect a nation of people who can't do a 1040EZ to understand Obamacare ?

Aug 26, 2013 1:44PM
Not saying Obamacare is the answer. We need to do something though. Health care/coverage is not affordable anymore. I know a lot of friends whose families are paying almost as much a month in health insurance premiums as they do on their rent/mortgage. Hey I expect to pay for stuff but there are no affordable choices out there. 
Aug 26, 2013 2:43PM
Remember when we used to laugh at Canada? Who's laughing now?
Aug 26, 2013 3:14PM

I'm waiting to see if this goes like mandatory car insurance went. We were fed the same song and dance about how if everyone had car insurance the rates would be cheaper because the burden would be spread out farther.

A while after car insurance was made mandatory the rates started going up and up. People asked why the rates were going up if the burden was spread out farther. The answer was now that everyone has car insurance we have to process more claims and that costs more.

I'm just curious what will happen when 46 million more people start using their new insurance. Surely the insurance companies won't have to hire more people to process claims and the insurance companies won't have to put out more money to pay those 46 million more claims.

I'm betting current rates triple at least in five years or less while coverage declines too.

Aug 26, 2013 12:42PM

1. Bend over.

2. Put your head between your legs.

3. Kiss your azz goodbye.

Aug 26, 2013 2:54PM
simple, dont shop for it.  all of the people against this stupid law should not buy or change anything. we should not pay the fine either and overwhelm the system until they actually listen to the people
Aug 26, 2013 2:40PM
Does anybody realize even with health insurance there is going to be restrictions on what they will  cover through obamadisaster. What a horrible mess the idiot has this country in. In many many ways. I hope sometime soon he has to answer to the American people. Impeach would be good for the country.
Aug 26, 2013 12:50PM
You want to know how to shop for Obama-Care? B-O-H-I-C-A! Bend Over Here It Comes Again!!!
Aug 26, 2013 2:28PM

Remember "If you like your current health insurance you can keep it"

Guess Bo-Dumbo LIED again!


2013-08-07 Major Insurers opting OUT OF BO-DUMBO-CARE

Major health insurance companies--Blue Cross, Aetna, United, Humana--have decided not to participate in various states in the Obamacare health-insurance exchanges that will be the only place Americans will be able to buy a health insurance plan using the federal subsidies authorized under the Obamacare law.

2013-07-12 Wegman’s cuts healthcare:
It's one thing when a fast-food company cuts back on employment in response to Obamacare, but Wegmans' decision to reduce benefits has got to hurt. After all, burger joints aren't often thought of as benefits-laden employers. But Wegmans, an East Coast supermarket chain, has built a loyal following not only for its well-stocked stores but for its generous benefits. Now it's cutting health insurance for part-time workers starting in 2015. The reason? Obamacare. Privately held Wegmans had offered health insurance to workers with at least 20 hours a week!

UPS Dropping spousal coverage:

U.P.S., the world’s largest package delivery company, said its decision was prompted in part by “costs associated with” the that is commonly called Obamacare.

University of Virginia announced that in part because of costs linked to the Affordable Care, both will stop providing health care coverage to employees' spouses who can obtain insurance through their own employer


Aug 26, 2013 2:55PM

This is what is included in NEW HEALTH CAAARE BILL. Does this sound like health care to you?

Posted from 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What’s in the Fine Print? Sidewalks, Grocery Stores, and Jungle Gyms

HELP Committee Democrats’ Bill Chock-full of Wasteful Spending

Washington, D.C. –U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Ranking Member of the

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the Senate’s

only accountant, today criticized wasteful spending in a health care reform bill released

by HELP Committee Democrats this week.

“The Kennedy-Dodd bill will pave sidewalks, build jungle gyms, and open grocery

stores, but it won’t bring down health care costs or make quality coverage more

affordable,” Enzi said. “In a time of record debt and deficits, how can Democrats justify

the wasteful spending in this bill?

“We need to root out the waste, fraud and abuse that is driving up health care

costs – not create a whole slew of new wasteful programs,” said Enzi, the only Senator

to serve on the HELP, Finance and Budget Committees, which share jurisdiction over

health care reform.

The HELP Committee Democrats’ bill would:

 Establish a “Community Makeover Program” to spend billions to beautify streets,

up to $10 per person in selected communities;

 Fund a federal government program to build new sidewalks and bike paths, and

put up street lights;

 Finance new grocery stores and farmers’ markets;

 Revoke employers rights to provide free wellness benefits to employees;

 Mandate that a new Washington health police bureaucracy dictate what local

restaurants can offer their customers; and,

 Subsidize community projects like building jungle gyms in parks.

“Some of these programs may have value, but this is the wrong bill at the wrong

time,” Enzi said. “With our nation’s health and economy at stake, this bill must not turn

into a Christmas list for every partisan interest group in Washington.”


Aug 26, 2013 1:54PM
 There, you'll be able to compare prices as well as decide how big a deductible you'd like and how much of a co-pay you're willing to take on.----------and what you want for max out of pocket.
Who writes these articles? Seems like there is nothing new here, just another layer of admin and more to keep up to date and in sync. 
Aug 26, 2013 2:59PM
Nice title, I can sum it up more simply. Close your eyes, plug your nose, and bring a handkerchief.  
Aug 26, 2013 2:20PM
Come on author, get your 'you're' correct! Your profession (not you're profession) is writing and spell check won't save you on this.  Word has grammar check! Your welcome (nope wrong again, YOU'RE welcome).
Aug 28, 2013 12:54PM
Screw "The Affordable Health Care Act". I'm not opting for any of it and the government can kiss my ****.
Aug 28, 2013 12:52PM
I am not buying it .... 260.00 a week **** I can't eat let alone get insurance
Aug 26, 2013 4:55PM

Aren't all of you young, now college grads who can't find jobs glad you voted for a novelty act.  You just wanted to be part of history, it was the cool thing to do.  Now you're in the real world, can only stay on mommy and daddy's cadillac plan to age 26.  Exchange insurance is going to be quite a bit more expensive than you ever imagined, the medical service providers are going to be horrible, as many reputable doctors are only gong to cater to group health plans and not the exchange b.s.  


Enjoy, and remember this in a couple years before the next novelty act, (hey guys wouldn't be cool to say we voted for the first female President?) makes it even worse.

Aug 26, 2013 1:18PM
.....and this article brought yet another lie from the ex red who always pimps for the  blue.
Aug 26, 2013 3:31PM

here's how it works:

OBAMAcare's sole reason for existence is to bankrupt the people, then the Nation.

If you have a job, what's left over on your paycheck will barely pay the bills. Because you "expendable" income is cut, you'll no longer buy products and services you otherwise could've afforded. Now that this is happening all across the country, people in the service industry are losing jobs faster than anyone else (remember, these people USED to buy products and services as well). As more and more people lose jobs, more and more people will depend on the gov for assistance. To pay for that assistance, more and more taxes and fees will be levied against those that can still afford it. Which won't be for long.

Once the unemployment/poverty rate is much higher than the number of people still employed (but not by the gov), the country is ripe for a militant take-over and Martial Law. Once this occurs, the Constitution and Bill of Rights are NO MORE!! (This is why there is a huge push to confiscate the guns).

Once that happens, the UN will step in to gain control with Obama's approval.

Agenda 21 is here.

Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.