Making good on many campaign promises, the new crop of Congressional Republicans kicked off 2017 yesterday with their first step toward a plan to “repeal and replace Obamacare.”
GOP legislators resurfaced a bill with some ideas to replace the Affordable Care Act, which introduced health insurance exchanges and subsidies, among other efforts to expand insurance coverage in the U.S.
“Make no mistake about it,” Vice President-elect Mike Pence told reporters yesterday after a meeting with Republican lawmakers. “We’re going to keep our promise to the American people — we’re going to repeal Obamacare and replace it with solutions that lower the cost of health insurance without growing the size of government.”
While supporters are happy to see such swift action from representatives on the promises that got them elected, many Americans are worried.
What Exactly is Happening With Obamacare?
With only vague mentions of “a plan” from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), we’re uncertain what to expect.
The bill making headlines now is “unlikely to become the main vehicle in the House to repeal Obamacare,” according to CNN. No one seems to know exactly how “repeal and replace” will look.
It leaves us in limbo, with many people wondering: Are we about to lose our health insurance?
Unfortunately, all public answers to that question are, for now, only speculation.
What to Do if You Rely on Obamacare for Health Insurance
If you’re one of about 20 million people who’ve gained health insurance since 2010 directly because of the Affordable Care Act, don’t panic.
Few people know what’s actually going to happen as Republicans move forward with their plan, so don’t let guesses get you down.
If you don’t like sitting on your hands waiting to learn your fate, here are two pragmatic steps you can take now to prepare yourself (a bit) from whatever “repeal and replace” might mean.
1. Enroll (or renew) in the health insurance marketplace before Jan. 31.
If you don’t have health insurance through an employer, Medicare, Medicaid or another source, enroll through the health insurance marketplace before Jan. 31.
You can enroll:
- By Phone: 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325)
If you had coverage in 2016 through the health care marketplace and didn’t make any changes, you were probably automatically enrolled in the same plan for 2017 — so you should be covered.
You can check your enrollment status through your account at Healthcare.gov or by calling the number above.
Even if you were automatically enrolled, you may want to check your plan to make sure you have the best coverage available. You can update it through the marketplace before Jan. 31.
Sign up to make sure you have the best coverage you can get now, so you know you’re covered as long as possible. This will save you from scrambling for coverage or care after the full plan is unveiled.
2. Make an appointment with your doctor.
We don’t know that you’ll be stuck with a gap in health care coverage between “repeal” and “replace.” But if a gap would have serious ramifications on your health, plan ahead.
“People should sign up and continue to be covered as long as the Republicans let them,” Tim Jost, a health care law expert at Washington and Lee University told MONEY. “People should think about if there’s anything I can get now, that might not last past repeal.”
That could mean getting in your annual physical now, scheduling a procedure you’ve been putting off, filling prescriptions or switching to a birth control method that will outlast the incoming administration.
Resources to Reduce Your Health Care Costs
In the meantime, resourceful Penny Hoarders can always search for alternative ways to afford health care.
Visit a doctor online! Use telehealth to meet with a Board-certified medical professional online at a fraction of the cost of a clinical visit.
For your mental health, here are nine ways to get free or cheap therapy when you don’t have health insurance.
If you’re engaged in a Christian church and are relatively healthy, consider joining Medi-Share or another health-care sharing ministry.
For medication, check out these six ways to save money filling your prescriptions.
And, with or without health insurance, follow these 10 tips to save money on your medical bills.
Your Turn: Will your family be affected if Congress decides to repeal Obamacare?
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).