Back to school: what you need to know about health insurance

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Back to school: what you need to know about health insurance

This article was last updated in 2013. For the most up-to-date information on health insurance, visit our Health Insurance Guide.

New York City inexplicably turns into Europe in the summer. It seems like everyone in the city takes off for extended vacations - amply documented by all the feet-on-the-beach photos on Facebook. But not the PolicyGenius team. We reaped the benefits of a vacated NYC (namely, shorter lunchtime lines at Chipotle. But we didn't share pictures of our feet at Chipotle because we don't like to brag). And we put our heads down to get some stuff done. This summer we:

  • Wrapped up user testing of our beta products

  • Threw ourselves into the startup fundraising gauntlet

  • Started developing our full-version products for launch

  • Passed a kidney stone

  • Expanded our team

  • Dominated the NYC Trivia League

And that's why our blog went on summer hiatus. But summer's over and the blog is back, with a back-to-school edition. Insurance school, obviously. Sounds excruciating, but bear with us a bit longer. This fall is going to be an important time for health insurance, given the implementation of key Obamacare provisions. Here's what you need to know:

If you have health insurance through your employer - enrollment season usually starts in October. Pay attention to materials about your health insurance coverage (for once open those emails from HR!) because your plan might be changing. The Affordable Care Act requires health insurance plans to comply with new requirements for maximum out-of-pocket limits and minimum health benefits (good news for you). If your current plan doesn't meet these requirements, you'll have to change plans. The good news is that if you have to change plans, it should result in better coverage. If your employer hasn't communicated with you about any health insurance changes (and most haven't yet), make sure you ask.

If you don't have health insurance or bought it on your own - get ready to shop for more affordable health insurance options on October 1. That's when the state health insurance exchanges go live. These exchanges, required by the Affordable Care Act, are online marketplaces where you can shop for health insurance plans. The exchanges are intended to provide more affordable plans and more options to consumers. Note that the individual mandate to have health insurance goes into effect in 2014 (meaning if you don't have insurance and don't qualify for an exemption, you'll pay a tax penalty). Go to the federal government's health care site for more information on how these exchanges will work and how Obamacare will affect you.

We know: health insurance is hard. Trying to understand your coverage probably makes you feel like that kid with his head stuck in the chair. So be on the lookout for new PolicyGenius health insurance tools that make this complicated topic much easier. In the meantime, feel free to send us any questions you have about health insurance at [team@policygenius.com](mailto: team@policygenius.com)