4. Know what counts as income.
It's crucial to remember that the system is not asking for your total income, even though it often uses the general term "income."
Healthcare.gov cares about your modified adjusted gross income. The system uses that income to figure out if you're eligible for a tax-credit subsidy that would lower your insurance cost, or to find out if you're eligible for Medicaid, the federal insurance program for the poor.
In most cases, your modified adjusted gross income will be the same as your adjusted gross income, which you'll find on your IRS tax return. It's on Form 1040 EZ – Line 4, Form 1040A – Line 22, or Form 1040 – Line 38.
There could be complications, though. If you have non-taxable Social Security benefits, for instance, they'll count toward your modified adjusted gross income when they normally wouldn't. Check this WebMD primer for more details.
If your income changes, you should contact your insurance Marketplace as soon as possible.
5. Talk to a person.
You can get guidance from local "navigators" and other assisters whose job is to help people figure out their health insurance options. Their services are free. Visit localhelp.healthcare.gov to find out how to reach an assister in your area. You can also call the Healthcare.gov Customer Call Center 24 hours a day at 800-318-2596.
You can also get help from a licensed insurance agent certified to sell insurance through the Marketplaces. Find one here.
6. Protect against fraud.
If you have concerns about protecting your privacy on Healthcare.gov, you may wish to buy your insurance directly from an insurer. Right now, this is only available in Florida, Texas, and Ohio. Want to shop around? Remember that you can use Healthcare.gov to explore various options without providing your name or address.
Consumers Union offers these other tips:
- Don't pay anyone for assistance, and ask for proof of certification if you use an in-person assister.
- Don't respond to unsolicited calls. Use our state map to find the web site and phone number for the Marketplace in your state.
- Be skeptical of high-pressure tactics.