The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

March 21, 2014

Q&A: Am I stuck in my job's costly health plan?

(Continued)

It's probably worthwhile to go to HealthCare.gov, click on "see plans before I apply" and follow the steps to find out what plans are available in your area, what they cost and what kind of subsidy you might get if you purchase one in that marketplace. You don't lose anything by window shopping.

Whatever you do, know that if you get a job during 2014, your new income may require you to get insurance at that time. You'll want to keep an eye on that, so you don't find yourself facing a penalty when you file 2014 taxes.

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TRAPPED IN WORKPLACE PLAN?

Q: "My insurance went up. Now, I have no $$ left to actually afford the copays or the much needed eyeglasses for my daughter. I think I'm what Obamacare considers the working poor. I work, therefore I don't get free health care. Like everything else offered to help struggling people, I make less than $200 over the minimum, so I get zilch." — Laura Carter, suburbs of Savannah, Ga.

Her story: Carter supports an 18-year-old daughter and herself with a $27,000 salary from her job as a mitigation specialist and collector in Savannah, 45 minutes from her home. When her company changed insurers in October, her premiums for family coverage soared by about $150 a month, to $285.

A: People like Carter, who feels stuck in a workplace plan she can't afford, may qualify for subsidized coverage in the new insurance markets, called exchanges, under certain conditions.

The exchanges are mostly for people who do not get insurance at work. But they are also open to those who get work-based insurance that costs too much. The rule is this: If you are paying more than 9.5 percent of your income for your employer's insurance, you should be able to switch to a plan in the exchange, and if your income is low enough, you should qualify for subsidized premiums in that plan.

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