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Online calculators help consumers estimate premium costs


UPDATE: Enroll America, a nonprofit dedicated to spreading awareness about the Affordable Care Act, has introduced a new cost calculator for your geographic area. See below.

@patriciaborns  For those who haven't heard, the Affordable Care Act makes it mandatory for almost everyone to have health insurance by Jan. 1, 2014, or pay a penalty. How much will my premium cost, and do I qualify for a tax credit, are the number one questions of uninsured Floridians waiting for the new health exchange to open on Oct. 1. 

Online calculators have sprouted to answer those questions. By anonymously entering information about yourself, you can find out approximately what your healthcare premium could cost, how much if any subsidy you qualify for, and other information to help you forecast your personal finances. 

Remember, you're getting estimates. When you shop for a real plan, as of Jan. 1, insurers can't deny coverage for preexisting conditions or base your rate on whether you're male or female, so questions about your health status shouldn't apply. 

Here are some of the most popular calculators and what they do:

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation calculator is the official calculator of the government's healthcare.gov website where you can sign up for a healthcare account and, on Oct. 1, shop for a healthcare plan. The non-profit research organization has no connection with Kaiser Permanente or any healthcare provider. The calculator factors your age, family size, and tobacco use into the estimate, but doesn't include your zip code or the cost of Florida insurance plans, which will affect your real costs.   

WebMD launched a new website to help consumers understand health insurance under the ACA. Besides a healthcare cost calculator, the site offers live chats with experts and a helpful ACA blog by LA Times reporter Lisa Zamosky. The WebMD calculator estimates the subsidized and full cost of your healthcare premium based on income, taking into account age, family size, zip code, and simulated medical claims. The zip code capability is important because medical services cost more or less depending on where you live, so insurance companies will base the cost of your actual premium partly on your zip code. 

The GoHealth calculator asks your age, zip code, family type and annual income, and estimates what your premium cost with and without a subsidy. It, too, figures an average premium for most zip codes in the U.S. The calculator assumes a non-smoker. 

The Healthinsurance.org calculator tells you what you'll owe the fed if you decide to opt out of the health insurance requirement. For example, the 2014 penalty for a single person earning 50,000/year and not getting health insurance is $402.50. WebMD's widget calculates that for you, too. 

With Enroll America's new calculator, the information you get is based on data that includes your age, your estimated subsidy, if any, and the cost of all the plans offered on the healthcare exchange for your county. The results show you the plan price range for the information you enter. For instance, if your zip code is in Miami-Dade County, your income is $25,000, and you're 30 years old, the calculator tells your estimated monthly cost will range from $81 to $144/month after a $95/month subsidy.   





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