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For Many, New Health Law Will Offer a Bridge to Medicare

When the virtual doors to the new Health Insurance Marketplace open next month, Americans in the 50-through-64 "pre-Medicare" age bracket may be the ones rushing in first.

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A story in the New York Times points out that, with the opening of the marketplace on Oct. 1, the Affordable Care Act may provide many older Americans with "a bridge to Medicare." The story goes on to say:

"While older people could pay up to three times as much as younger people buying coverage, because rates can take account of age, the marketplaces could allow them to buy a policy for much less than they would pay today in some states, particularly those people with expensive medical conditions."

Here are some of the big changes that Americans ages 50 through 64 - 9 million of whom have no health insurance at all - will find in the Health Insurance Marketplace:

  • Insurers have to cover the essentials, such as doctor visits, hospital care, emergency and preventive care, prescriptions and more.
  • Insurers can't turn people away, or charge them more, because they have preexisting medical conditions. (They can charge older people more, but the cost is capped at three times the premium for younger people.)
  • Insurers can't put dollar limits on the care - either in a year or over your lifetime.
  • Subsidies, in the form of tax credits, will be available to help low- and moderate-income families buy health insurance. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 48 percent of adults currently purchasing coverage for themselves will be eligible for subsidies - and those subsidies will average $5,548 per family.


Edward A. Kaplan, a senior benefits consultant at the Segal Company, told the Times that early retirees are "the big group of winners," adding that many "may get significant relief."

Anthony Wright, the executive director of Health Access California, says that many people nearing retirement age stand to benefit the most. "They're the ones most likely to have preexisting conditions, most likely to be charged more because of their age and medical condition and very likely to be an early retiree," he told the Associated Press.

How might all this affect you? AARP offers an online guide to the health care law; you may also wish to consult the federal government's Health Insurance Marketplace site. And the Kaiser Family Foundation offers an online subsidy calculator that can help you do all the math in advance.

If you have Medicare, take note: You don't have to do anything differently and will continue to go to to sign up for plans.

ACA = Affordable Care Act = Obamacare






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