How to Navigate the Health Insurance Market Place in the US

Written by Karen Bryan

healthcare usaNavigating the health insurance marketplace in the United States can be a real headache.

Source of Health Insurance

In the United States, the traditional model for health insurance is to have insurance provided to you by your employer. This model exists because when the idea of universal health insurance was emerging, companies in the United States were experiencing a worker shortage post WWII. One incentive was to provide health insurance to get people to join. As a result, a national move for universal healthcare has not had traction until only recently.

Because of all of this, your employer is still the primary provider of your health insurance when you work in the United States. That being said, not every job provides health insurance. In fact, many businesses do not need to provide their employees health insurance, leading to our second point.

The Affordable Care Act/ Obama Care

Named ‘Obama Care’ by cynical conservatives and republicans, the Affordable Care Act represented the first attempt by the government over the past 30 years to create a universal health care system. However, because the language in the bill is confusing, aspects of the bill are still up in the air, and may even be repealed by the Supreme Court.

That being said, every state in the United States had an option a couple of years ago to create a state exchange. This exchange ran by the state, would allow state residents to shop within their state for plans, such as Health Net, that work for them. For the majority of states that elected to not start their own exchange, a national exchange was available so that people could choose a plan. In essence, along with a mandate that every person have some kind of coverage, it was now possible for everyone to get affordable health care. While there are numerous problems with the system, including a disastrous initial roll out, the system is now improving and entering its second year.

Where Does That Leave You?

When navigating the health insurance marketplace in the US, consider the following steps.

  1. Does your work provide health insurance?
  2. If the answer is yes, then either apply online or go to a government office that specializes in enrolling people. If the answer is no, then is there a state exchange set up in the state that you are working?
  3. If you do not have a state exchange, then use the national exchange.

All I can say is thank goodness that we have the National Health Service in the UK, funded by taxpayers, but free at the point of use.

Photo by Army Medicine