Just the facts

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Colorado’s Online Insurance Marketplace:

Premium Calculator:


Local enrollment specialists

Women’s Health Center: 303-442-5160

Wardenburg Patient Services: 303-492-2005


Insurance options by annual income for individuals

<$15,000: Medicaid

$15,000-$29,000: Direct premium subsidies

$29,000-$45,000: Tax Credit

>$45,000: No government assistance with insurance cost

If you’re young, you may feel like health insurance isn’t something you need to worry about until you are old and frail. But the federal government disagrees.

If you are still uninsured on March 31, you’re going to have to pay up to $95 or 1 percent of your taxable income, whichever is greater, under the Affordable Care Act. But even if you’re broke, you can still get a health care plan and avoid the tax penalty if you sign up by March 31.

Those whose parents have health insurance that covers children can stay on a parent’s plan until they turn 26. About 3.1 million young adults have gained coverage since September 2010 because of this provision.

But for those who aren’t that lucky, don’t panic — there are options.

Young adults traditionally comprised a significant portion of the uninsured, said Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement for the nonprofit Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. Now, Fox said, “young adults have the most options of anybody.”

Since the marketplaces opened, 807,515 in the 18-24 age group have already enrolled in Affordable Care Act insurance plans across the country.

Even if you’re completely broke, you can get covered. Because of expansions to the Medicaid system made within Colorado, Medicaid now offers health care to individuals making less than $15,000. Individuals enrolled in Medicaid don’t have to pay a premium. Medicaid recipients will sometimes have to pay a small co-pay for services — usually no more than few dollars per visit.

If you make more than $15,000 a year, don’t be afraid of the premiums you see listed in Colorado’s online market place. “Many people qualify for financial aid who do not realize it,” Fox said. He said that in order to be able to see the actual price you will pay for health insurance, you will need to input your personal information. For a quick way to estimate your costs for a few different levels of coverage, Fox recommends the”>Kaiser family subsidy calculator.

If you want to apply for a tax-credit or financial aid for your health coverage, the first step is to apply for Medicaid. Once you have been rejected from Medicaid, you can apply for other forms of financial assistance.

Individuals earning between $15,000 and $45,000 can usually get at least a tax credit to help with the cost of health care, and individuals who earn below $29,000 annually can usually get direct financial aid to help with their premiums.


Navigating health plans

There are many of resources in Boulder for finding insurance. For example, anyone can make an appointment with the full-time enrollment specialist at the Women’s Health Center in Boulder. (Despite the center’s name, men are welcome to make appointments to get help choosing a health-care plan.)

Since the Affordable Care Act has gone into effect, the women’s health center has put more time into patient education, said Lisa Radelet, communications director of the Women’s Health Center. Some patients were worried that they will no longer be able to receive free services at the women’s center if they get insurance, she said. But most of the center’s services, like birth control and testing for sexually transmitted diseases, are covered in all plans with no co-pay.

Radalet admits that Medicaid isn’t perfect. Since doctors do not make as much money from Medicaid patients as they do from other patients, many doctors will not see Medicaid patients, she said. “People are struggling to find doctors who accept Medicaid.”

The Department of Patient Services at Wardenburg Health Center also has experts to help students navigate the Affordable Care Act. “We do a lot of hand-holding,” said Shelley Sheppeck, manager of patient services at Wardenburg.

“We go onto websites with them, explain plans to them, we help them find doctors covered by their plan.”

Any student can call patient services and make an appointment.

The student health insurance plan offered at Wardenburg was redesigned to be Affordable Care Act compliant. At CU, about one quarter of the student body typically chooses the Student Gold health insurance plan, and 75 percent have outside insurance.

Sheppeck said that Student Health Gold is better for students than marketplace insurance plans. They’ve added benefits no ACA plan will have, like 25 physical therapy visits per year, Sheppeck said.

Fox said that he thinks the law is very beneficial to young people, because it provides a reliable safety net at a time when they typically lacked it.

He also thinks the new healthcare law will spur innovation and open new opportunities for young people who are staying in jobs because they are afraid of losing the safety net provided by their corporate insurance.

“There are lots of young adults with really innovative ideas,” Fox said. “If they want to start a small business, health care factors into that decision.”

Now, he said, if young adults decide to take a risk on an idea, they can rest assured that they can still count on getting the care they need.

Contact Jake Kincaid at

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