I know what you're thinking, another Obamacare story. But this one is different, I swear. Stay with me here.
No matter what you think about the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), we can all agree that people should have access to affordable health care, right? Good. If you disagree with that, well, we're just going to have to agree to disagree.
The reality is that if you aren't covered by March 31st, you're going to pay a fine on your 2015 taxes. Paying a fine sucks, but going into debt because you got cancer (my story) sucks more.
Because I have cancer guilt and want to make sure everyone stays alive, I'm here to help. Here's everything you need to know about how to get insurance through Obamacare. Don't thank me, just tweet at me when you get covered. K? Thx!
STEP 1: Confirm Your Current Situation
If you're under 26, you might be on your parents insurance. Send Mom a text. If you aren't, or you're over 26 and aren't covered under your employer, you'll need to have at least applied for coverage by March 31st.
If you don't apply for coverage? You'll pay $95 or 1 percent of your income (whatever is higher) on your 2015 taxes. If you get insurance after March 31st, you'll need to pay 1/3 of the fine. But like, why not just avoid the fine?
STEP 2: Do You Qualify For a Tax Rebate or Medicaid?
The easiest way is to go to HealthCare.gov. Depending on where you live, you'll either see options specific to your state's marketplace or coverage under the federal marketplace.
Eligible tax rebates are based on your annual income. Individual income between $11,000 and $45,000 is eligible for a rebate. In many states, if your income is below $11,000, you could be eligible for Medicaid. Here's a handy calculator.
Of course you could get private insurance outside the marketplace, but costs won't be as low, and you won't get a rebate for eligible income brackets. But since this is the U.S., spend those Benjamins however you damn well want.
STEP 3: Zero In On the Insurance Plan That's Right For You
This depends on what you feel like you'll use. Most folks won't need anything crazy comprehensive, and all plans come with free physicals. Like most plans on the market, vision and dental are separate from medical, so you'll still have to look into private options on that front. Fortunately private vision and dental plans are pretty much always reasonable.
Here's how they're broken down...
Catastrophic: You're under 30 or have a hardship exemption (based on income). Catastrophic coverage is for folks who almost never go to the doctor, and really only need protection if something crazy happens.
Bronze: This is for people who go to the doctor once or twice a year. Nothing major. Your monthly payment will be low, but your co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses will be higher. But since you're not going to the doctor a lot, you really won't be bothered with that.
Silver: You go to the doctor occasionally, but you also like to see specialists. Low monthly payments, and so-so co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses.
Gold: You're at the doctor once a month and get a lot of prescriptions. Higher monthly payments, but reasonable co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses.
Platinum: You basically are living at the doctors office and take a ton of pills. High monthly payments, but low everything else.
STEP 4: Apply.
You've chosen a plan. Now what? In most cases, you'll enter your name, age and income, hit "Apply," and boom, you're covered. They'll review your info and in a few short weeks you'll get a notification from your insurance carrier that you're in the club!
If you get really lost, just call 'em at 1-800-318-2596.
After that you can do whatever you want. You could skip down the street knowing that if you trip, you're going to be just fine. Or you could go get a physical, see if everything is in working order. Whatever you do, you can go on living your best life knowing that you don't have to worry about getting sick.
Visit HealthCare.gov to apply.
H. Alan Scott is a writer and comedian based in New York City and Los Angeles. This post first appeared on Thought Catalog.