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How to Shop for Family Health Insurance


What about health care reform?

There has been a lot of talk about government health care reform. Although the plan -- referred to by many as "Obamacare" -- was signed into law in March of 2010, there is still confusion about what exactly the bill will mean for the insured and uninsured in America. Although the plan will not officially go into affect until 2014, there are some benefits you can take advantage of now for your family.

One benefit that is particularly of interest to families is the new mandate for the age of dependents. Historically, insurance plans would not cover children as dependents over the age of 21. Some plans allowed coverage up to the age of 23 if the child was enrolled in school. Thanks to the reform bill, you can now keep your dependent on your plan up to the age of 26. That means that from birth through the age of 26, they will cost the same amount on your insurance plan. Not only that, but there are no regulations about coverage ending if the child is not in school, gets married or is employed full-time [source: Jaffe].

You should still look closely at your plan when it comes to your dependents. Despite this new mandate, there is no requirement that any plan cover children at all. Make sure you continue to do your homework where your children's coverage is concerned.

Another benefit available to you now is that you may be eligible for Medicaid or another government health plan that benefits from federal funding to offer you a cheaper plan. These plans used to be reserved for the poor or disabled, but the regulations have been relaxed to help those who have suddenly found themselves unemployed. Options vary by state, so check out your state government's Web site for more details on the options available to you [source: Hawkins].

Many believe the new law to be unconstitutional. In fact, many states and individuals have filed suit against the law. The Florida state court heard a multi-state suit and ruled parts of the law to be unconstitutional. The main controversy surrounds the requirement that every American purchase a health insurance plan. Once the law is enacted in 2014, you must have health insurance or else you'll have to pay a tax penalty. However, you don't have to adopt a government plan; you can keep your private or employer's plan.

As we're all starting to gain a better understanding of "Obamacare," the plan is getting closer to final ruling as the Supreme Court has agreed to hear Florida's multi-state case stating parts of the law to be unconstitutional. It looks like a final decision on the plan will be made sometime in 2012, right around the time of the presidential election. With the possibility of more change on the horizon, it seems health care will never be a black and white answer. But, if you do the work to understand what is best for you and your family, you can protect them from the added stress that comes with not having the right health coverage.


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