What does Obamacare Mean for Canadians?
Health insurance for Canadians moving to the U.S. has always been a problem . . . until now. In my books The Canadian in America and The American in Canada, I list two things as “must haves” before you can even consider a move to the other country: health insurance coverage and an immigration path. Tax planning, estate planning, etc. come after these two things have been determined.
One of those “must haves,” health insurance coverage, is now a lot easier to get for Canadians considering a move to the U.S. To date, obtaining healthcare coverage when moving to the U.S. came from:
- Group health insurance plan through an employer
- Individual policy from a private health insurance company
- Federal or state government via Medicare, Veteran’s Affairs, high risk pools, etc.
There were several problems with these choices starting with Medicare which you are not eligible for until age 65. Further, if you are a moving to the U.S. for the first time, you are not eligible for Medicare until you have resided in the U.S. for five years. If you are younger than 65 and wanted to move down to retire, you would have to get an individual health insurance policy but could easily be denied for a pre-existing condition or the plan had a high deductible ($10,000+). Alternatively, you had to get a part-time job with an employer that offered group health insurance coverage to part-time employees. State high risk pools may provide an alternative, but not every state has one.
In 2010, the federal government passed sweeping legislation called The Patient & Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA). This Act affects Medicare, Medicaid, private/group health insurance but probably most importantly, mandates the availability of affordable health insurance to all Americans beginning in 2014. Beginning January 1, 2014, the PPACA mandates “health insurance exchanges” that will offer U.S. citizens AND legal residents affordable health insurance options regardless of pre-existing conditions! These policies have government mandated “essential health benefits” that provide a comprehensive set of healthcare services that must cover a minimum of 60% of health care costs. There will be four plans: Bronze (covers 60% of healthcare costs, Silver, Gold and Platinum (covers 90%) with maximum out-of-pocket amounts of $5,950 for individuals and $11,900 for families. The premiums are unknown at this point but the Bronze plan is estimated at $200 per month. Regardless, all health insurance companies will have their policies on “the exchange” and will be competing with one another for your business so this should keep premiums very competitive. This is one of the key ideas behind PPACA is to reduce the costs for healthcare both in the system of hospitals, providers, etc. and to the end consumer.
If you have considered moving to the U.S. but health insurance and healthcare coverage has been a barrier, that barrier has been removed as of January 1, 2014 and you can now start making your plans. The U.S. government has set-up comprehensive websites with all the details at www.healthcare.gov and www.cms.gov.
If you have any questions or want to discuss your options further, please contact me at 480/722-9414.
Brian Wruk, MBA, CFP®(US), CFP®(Canada), TEP, CIM
Author of The Canadian in America and The American in Canada
President, Transition Financial Advisors Group, Inc.