Individual health insurance buyers beware. Many new marketplace entrants are trying to take advantage of consumer confusion.
The Affordable Care Act requires nearly all individuals in 2014 to have health insurance (minimum essential coverage) or face an IRS penalty. If you enroll in coverage that isn't considered minimum essential coverage, then you could still face a penalty at tax time.
If you're enrolled in an group health plan through your workplace, then your employer can confirm if your coverage meets the minimum essential coverage requirement.
The IRS defines minimum essential coverage as one of the following:
1. Employer-sponsored plan
2. Government-sponsored plan (e.g. Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, TRICARE)
3. Individual health insurance policy
4. Student health coverage
Coverage that is not minimum essential coverage includes:
1. Accidental death and dismemberment, disability, general liability coverage
2. Limited scope dental or vision, long-term care benefits, and benefits under a health flexible spending arrangement
3. Coverage for a specified disease (e.g., cancer-only policies)
4. Fixed indemnity insurance (e.g., pays a fixed dollar amount per occurrence or illness, regardless of incurred medical expense)
5. Medicare supplemental policies, separate from primary health coverage
When purchasing individual insurance it's best to buy from a trusted source. Cheap insurance could end up costing you much more in the long run. However, the most expensive option could be more than you need.
A licensed agent can help you evaluate your budget, and your current and anticipated future needs. You should only buy insurance from someone is licensed, and someone who is also government certified to sell coverage through the Marketplace is recommended.
To your health!