When I was laid off at age 53, I was able to stay on COBRA for a while, which covered my wife (we were separated at the time but still married) and my two kids. Eventually I had to get my own insurance. The way I did it was to find a work-related association I could join that offered health plans to its members, and through the association I was able to sign up for somewhat-reasonably-priced medical insurance. As my kids went off to college they were able to get health insurance through their universities. After I got divorced, my ex-wife qualified to join a different association and get medical insurance through them.
I don't know why -- because she was a woman? because she moved to a different state? because she belonged to a different association? -- but she had to pay even more than I did for medical insurance. In this past year, she was shelling out more than $1000 a month for coverage . . . just for herself!
(Which is one reason why I don't blame insurance companies for the high cost of medical care. If they were making so much money off medical insurance, they'd be sending us flyers in the mail, calling us on the phone, advertising on TV, in order to get us signed up. But instead, it's difficult to find an insurance company to take you on as an individual, so it can't be that profitable. Anyway, I stopped complaining about my medical insurance when they paid, in full, a $950 charge by an ambulance corps to drive my son 3 miles to the hospital when he cut his head in college. Who's ripping us off here? I asked myself. Not the insurance company. It's the ambulance corps!)
Anyway, now starting on January 1, 2014, under the Affordable Care Act, states will be required to set up insurance exchanges where you can buy your own individual medical insurance. Indeed, unless you qualify for an exemption (are you Amish?), or are already covered under another plan, you will be required to get insurance.
So, finally, those of us in our 50s and 60s who are no longer on the company payroll, and who are too young for Medicare, can do the responsible thing -- we can afford to buy reasonably priced medical insurance
If your income is limited, the government will help you buy insurance. Medicaid will cover people under 65 who have incomes up to 133% of the poverty level -- which, today, would be $14,856 a year for one person or $20,123 for a couple.
People with incomes up to four times the poverty level would qualify for assistance in buying health care. An estimate by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services says a couple earning the poverty level of $15,130 a year would pay an annual premium of $303 for health coverage. A couple with an income at four times the poverty level -- an annual income of $60,520 -- would pay $5,750 a year for health insurance, or $480 a month.
When you consider that my ex-wife is paying over $1,000 a month for her health insurance, that sounds like a good deal. I pay less than that, but not a lot less, and $480 a month sounds like a good deal to me, too.
All along, I've personally have been supportive of the government trying to do something about health care. The medical-hospital-insurance complex is just too big and complicated for individuals to negotiate by themselves, especially if they're sick or injured. I do worry that Obama's plan does not really address the high costs involved with medical care, and that ACA is going to end up costing us all a lot more than we've been told. But that's an issue for another day.
In the meantime, if you really want to educate yourself, go read all 974 pages of the Affordable Care Act (unless you think the Republicans are going to repeal and replace, in which case it would be a waste of time, but I'm betting that doesn't happen.)
Or, for a brief summary, go to "Consumer Questions on Health Care Act, and the Answers" from the Sunday New York Times, or for a slightly more jaundiced view check out this other report "How Obamacare Could Help You Retire Earlier (or Destroy Itself Trying)" from AOL Daily Finance.