Affordable Care Act
What Obamacare Means for Military Vets & Their Families
Published on May 22, 2015
Memorial Day is more than the start of the summer holiday season. It’s a national holiday on which Americans remember the service and sacrifice of military veterans, especially those who fell in war.
It began in the wake of the Civil War and was originally known as “Decoration Day,” when the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers alike were decorated in remembrance of that terrible conflict.
After WWII, the holiday was made a commemoration of all who had died in military service. In the late 1960s “Memorial Day” was adopted as the holiday’s official name by an act of Congress.
With so many veterans returning to civilian life after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, we want to look today what health reform under Obamacare may – or may not – mean for them.
Meeting Obamacare coverage requirements
If you’ve been in the military for several years, the health insurance market may have changed a lot since you last knew it.
These days, if you don’t have qualifying health insurance coverage under the law, you may face a steep penalty on your federal tax return unless you qualify for an exception. The penalty for 2015 is $325 per adult or 2% of your taxable income, whichever is greater.
The good news is that if you have coverage under Tricare (the military insurance plan), the Veterans health care plan (administered by the Veterans Administration) or the VA’s Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA), you’ve probably already met your minimum coverage requirements under Obamacare.
Buying health coverage on your own
If you’re a veteran returning to civilian life and you or your dependents are not covered under the VA and do not have employer-sponsored health insurance, you may be required to purchase coverage on your own.
The health reform law created specific open enrollment periods when you can sign up for self-purchased coverage. The next open enrollment period is scheduled to begin November 1, 2015 and end January 31, 2016. Coverage under new plans purchased then will begin no earlier than January 1, 2016.
However, if you’ve recently experienced a “qualifying life event” you may be able to enroll in coverage outside of open enrollment.
Qualifying life events may include things like moving to a new city or state, having a child, getting married or divorced, or losing coverage you may previously have had through an employer or through the military.
Subsidies to make health insurance more affordable
Depending on your income, you may qualify for government subsidies to help make your self-purchased health insurance coverage more affordable.
Under the health reform law, if you earn less than 400% of the federal poverty level (about $47,000 for a single person or $96,000 for a family of four outside of Alaska or Hawaii), you may qualify for subsidies.
If you earn less than 250% of the federal poverty level, you may qualify for an additional layer of assistance that can reduce your out-of-pocket costs for things like deductibles and copayments.
If you earn less than 100% of the federal poverty level, you should look into whether you can get coverage under a separate program called Medicaid.
Where to learn more about Obamacare and health insurance
To review your options, see if you’ve had a qualifying life event, or see if you may qualify for subsidies, work with a licensed online marketplace like eHealth or with the government-run exchange in your state.
If you have more questions about what Obamacare means for military veterans returning to civilian life, you may find some answers through this government website.
If you want to know if you qualify for health insurance coverage through the Veterans Administration, visit this page.
Remember, if you need to buy coverage for yourself or your family on the open market, eHealth is glad to help. We have licensed agents available to assist you by phone and through online chat.
Photo credit: image of Arlington National Cemetery posted to Flickr by the US Army.