Q: I am 19, single and a full-time student at the University of South Florida. I have no income and receive grants and student loans to pay for tuition and lodging. I borrow the shortfall from an uncle. I am a legal U.S. resident (green card). My parents do not live here.
How can I buy insurance on the marketplace under the Affordable Care Act? And since I cannot pay for insurance, would I be penalized? What are my other options? – Priyank from Tampa
Answer: Your list of questions is a great example that there is no one answer for people when it comes to the Health Insurance Marketplace. It’s important that anyone shopping for insurance there — or anyone else — be sure to ask a lot of questions before making any decisions. The deadline to have insurance is March 31.
Here are some answers for your situation:
1. As a legal U.S. resident, you will be required under the Affordable Care Act to get insurance as of Jan. 1.
2. Yes, you can shop on the online marketplace at www.healthcare.gov. But you also can buy insurance elsewhere that provides minimum essential coverage, such as the student health insurance available through your school.
3. As a college student with no reportable income, you may be eligible for tax credits or subsidies on monthly premiums to help pay for the insurance. However, that option is only available if you buy a plan through the online program administered by the government.
4. If you make less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level – about $11,500 – and you live in Florida, you may not qualify for subsidies. That’s because legislators in Florida and 25 other states have opted to not expand Medicaid insurance for the poor, leaving an estimate 760,000 state residents in this so-called “coverage gap.”
5. You also may be eligible to apply for an insurance exemption, meaning you can avoid the financial penalty. Being unable to afford insurance or making too little money to file federal income tax are among the reasons Healthcare.gov says it will allow a person to go without insurance.