Continuous reports of technical problems on the Obamacare website and the delays in provisions promised to help offset costs have spooked many people looking to buy medical coverage. For many, navigating the health insurance terrain remains a perplexing, frustrating task. But having insurance is still a top priority for Americans. The reason: Medical bills are the leading single cause of personal bankruptcies. So to protect your health and your wallet, experts say getting educated about the coverage you need, and how it's going to be paid for, is essential.
Facing that reality is "a real problem for people," said Jon Gabel, health-care senior fellow at the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago.
"Nobody chooses to become seriously ill, but it happens unexpectedly," noted Gabel. "Always protect yourself against catastrophic costs."
The United States's health insurance landscape is a hodgepodge of coverage. Nearly half the population is covered by employer-provided plans, also known as group insurance, while 31 percent are covered by government-run programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). About 5 percent have coverage from private insurance purchased on the individual marketplace, which now includes Obamacare exchanges. Another 15 percent are uninsured.
Experts say customers need to consider two key questions when buying either group or individual plans: "How much is it going to cost, and what am I going to get?" said Sharon Long, an analyst with the Health Policy Center of the Urban Institute. "Then trying to balance those two in terms of how much risk I'm willing to take."