Phrases Made Easy: “Minimum Essential Coverage”

Welcome back to another edition of “Phrases Made Easy.” This series at our blog aims to help make all of those long, drawn-out insurance phrases easier to understand. One thing we notice when talking about health insurance (and health benefits in general) is that the concepts can be “wordy” and boring. We emphasize fixing that here!

Our biggest goal is to help you tune in, understand, and put this knowledge to work for yourself or your company. We’re firm believers that informed consumers can make a really, really big difference in our industry.

The phrase that we’re talking about today is minimum essential coverage. This one sounds difficult, but it’s really not too bad. We’ve selected this phrase for one primary reason:

  1. Under the healthcare reform law (Obamacare, ACA)… minimum essential coverage is: the type of health insurance coverage that is required to be held by most Americans (per the individual mandate), in order to avoid individual tax penalties

In other words… you need to find a place where you can find minimum essential coverage (or pay a tax penalty). It doesn’t matter how rich you are or poor you are, where you live, or what kind of job you have… the law states that nearly every single American citizen will need to find minimum essential coverage by January 1st, 2014. It’s just that simple.

There are a number of different places where you can find minimum essential coverage. Here are the majority of options available for most people:

  • Coverage under an “eligible employer-sponsored plan,” which the proposed Treasury rule defines generally to mean coverage under a group health plan, whether insured or self-insured, including coverage under a federal or non-federal governmental plan (keeping it simple: coverage through your employer).
  • Coverage under an employer-sponsored retiree health plan.
  • Coverage under certain government programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and TRICARE.
  • Coverage in the individual insurance market, including a plan offered by an Exchange** (if you’re in California, you’ll want to look at Covered California).
  • Other coverage recognized by HHS, including self-funded student health coverage and coverage under Medicare Advantage plans.

**Very important new concept to understand

Please note that coverage listed as “excepted benefits” (as defined by HIPAA) will not qualify as minimum essential coverage. IE: dental benefits, vision benefits, and FSAs will not qualify on their own.

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