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Health benefit Marketplace and subsidies, things to be aware of

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The information is going to really start hitting the airwaves about Covered California, health care reform, when can you get guaranteed issue coverage and is there anything to look out for? Look out for, yes, there are things to take into consideration.

Subsidies--if you earn under 400% of the federal poverty level you will be eligible for sliding scale subsidies to offset the cost of your new health insurance. But these plans don't go into effect until January 1, 2014. You are supposed to be able to start enrolling October 1, but don't be in a rush. There will probably be some kinks to work out, and you have until mid December to go that route.

If you are eligible for subsidies, you MUST enroll through the exchange--you won't get them otherwise. BUT, beware of what you are doing here. If you under report your income, you will be held to repay any 'ill gotten gains' in the form of subsidies, and the IRS is supposed to be in charge of that. So if you have a change in income, you get an unexpected raise, bonus, or just a better paying job in general, you'll need to contact Covered California to update that.

And you've heard me hear talk about this before, but independent agents will be able to sell the Marketplace plans if they do the Covered California certification. Give serious consideration to finding an agent who can sell in and out of the exchange. That way you can evaluate all possible options so you don't end up with a plan you don't like. Okay, so you end up with a plan you dislike less than usual, who are we kidding. No one loves their plan very often but you will be stuck with this for the coming year, so you want to make a good choice.

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