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Obamacare shopping is trickier than ever. Here's a cheat sheet.

Jay Hancock, Kaiser Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

Health care is complicated. Shopping for an individual health plan just got even more so, with President Donald Trump's decision to block $7 billion in Affordable Care Act subsidies.

Known as cost-sharing reduction payments (CSRs), these federal funds had helped insurers offset the costs of the discounts they are required to offer to some lower-earning customers to help them pay for deductibles and copays.

We'll spare you the details. But because of how state regulators responded to the chaos and how insurers are trying to recover the money through higher premiums, common-sense rules of shopping may no longer apply.

A high-coverage "gold" plan in many states might now be cheaper than a medium-coverage "silver" plan. The reported 15 or 20 percent premium spikes resulting from Trump's move might nail you right in the wallet. Or, weirdly, it could save you hundreds of dollars next year if you play your cards right.

Experts' advice, in brief, is: SHOP AROUND. Play with different options on healthcare.gov or state marketplaces. Don't just renew this year's plan. More than ever, for 2018 that might not be the best deal.

FIND YOUR SITUATION HERE:

 

Household income is between $12,060 and $30,150 for an individual, $16,240 and $40,600 for a couple and $24,600 and $61,500 for a family of four.

By law, insurers still must pass along the cost-sharing reductions, even though Trump cut off the reimbursement. And you are probably eligible for them.

But to qualify for the cost-sharing reductions, which lower deductibles and copays when you seek care, you must purchase a silver plan on the marketplace. People buying the other metal levels -- the more comprehensive gold or platinum plans or less generous "bronze" plan -- cannot get this benefit. So unless you hardly ever see a doctor, get a silver plan.

However, if you're healthy and at the lower end of these income ranges, a bronze plan might make the most sense.

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