The deadline to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act is Monday, March 31. (Extensions will be granted in a few cases.)
I first tried to look at my options on the health insurance exchanges on Oct. 1, 2013, even though, at the time, I didn’t think I would sign up. But like millions of other people, I couldn’t even log in.
This week, with the deadline approaching, I finally decided to sign up for coverage on New York’s exchange. And — much to my surprise — it was easy.
Getting started is easy -- just click the get started button and register. Enter your name and email address.
This is the home screen where you can manage your account. Clicking between tabs allows you to enter information, find out if you are eligible for a subsidy, and choose a plan.
The exchange is generally for people who don't get coverage through their employer, so you have to explain that you don't get insurance from another source.
Under the next tab of the application, they ask about income. This determines whether or not you are eligible for a subsidy. Anyone who makes less than 400% of the federal poverty guidelines can get help paying for insurance. You can use tax information to fill in this section, but if your income has changed, you can explain that.
This is the final step in the application itself. Since I don't have other insurance through any source (I'm not a full-time staff employee of Business Insider), I didn't have to enter anything into the 'other information' tab. That's it for the 'application' process. It really is that simple.
The 'account' screen lets you manage or change any of your information. You can check to make sure you've entered everything correctly.
The eligibility screen tells you whether or not you can get a subsidy to help you pay for health insurance. There's no wait -- you will immediately have the information made available to you.
Next, you choose a plan. This screen allows you to sort plans by coverage level, cost, or other factors. The 'metal levels' -- bronze, silver, gold, and platinum -- are simple ways of telling you about how much of your health care the plan will cover. Bronze covers about 60%, silver about 70%, gold about 80%, and platinum about 90%. It's easy to see whether or not a plan offers dental or vision coverage. Every plan covers preventative care and other things that are considered 'essential': emergency services, prescription drugs, maternity and newborn care, mental health coverage, and more.
These are the bronze plans, which cover about 60% of health costs. You can compare up to three plans at once. Prices shown are for a couple, before taking the subsidy into account. They're still not cheap.
These are the silver plans, which cover about 70% of health costs. All plans are required to cover basic services. Each plans lists what they cover and what they don't in the same way, so making comparisons is easy.
After choosing a plan, you can manage your account from the exchange homepage. You can view or change your plan if you want, though only up until the March 31 deadline.
You can log on to the exchange at any point to change information or view documents. I got confirmation that I'd registered for coverage within a day.
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