Ask Emily
Answers to consumer questions about Obamacare

About this project

Is Obamacare for me? How much does it cost? What do I have to do? Obamacare is on the way and it’s complicated. That’s why the CHCF Center for Health Reporting put award-winning journalist Emily Bazar on the case. In “Ask Emily,” a twice-a-month column, she digs for – and comes up with – answers to consumers’ questions about how this giant health overhaul will work.


Ask Emily on KFBK: Dropped from coverage without consent

This segment originally appeared on KFBK's Afternoon News with Kitty O'Neal.

Look Ma, no option! My teeth are covered.

Like many things in Obamacare, dental insurance is more complicated than it should be.

Does Covered California really have you covered?

A worrisome trend is emerging among some Californians who thought they were safe and secure under Covered California: Their plans are being canceled without consent and sometimes without notice.

Change and no change at the exchange

I’m sure you’ve heard that premiums for plans sold through our health insurance exchange, Covered California, will go up an average of 4.2 percent next year.

Big bills lurk in specialty drug category

It used to be that your health plan’s annual out-of-pocket maximum was more like the safety net under a high wire: You sure were glad it was there, but you didn’t actually plan to use it.

Medi-Cal renewals: Another backlog on horizon?

Let’s start with some good news (because everything is relative): The backlog of Medi-Cal applications that I called “monumental”

Help! Help! Out-of-network emergency woes

Last year, I developed an antibiotic-resistant infection on my arm when I was traveling on the East Coast. With each day, it grew scarier and more painful, and it was spreading.

Ask Emily on Marketplace Money: Navigating Your Health Care Bill

Emily Bazar joins Marketplace Money guest host David Lazarus of the The Los Angeles Times to explain how to navigate your health care bill.

How to fight an unexpected bill under Obamacare

Do your homework. That’s the advice that health insurance companies have long given.

Ask Emily on KHTK'S Talkin' Money

How is the implentation of the Affordable Care Act affecting Californians? Emily Bazar joins Talkin' Money guest host Vince Mastracco to answer questions about network issues, tax penalties, and more.

Months after applying, legions stuck waiting for Medi-Cal

“One stop shop.” “No wrong door.” State officials have used those phrases since last year to describe the new, easier, more efficient Medi-Cal application process.

Network nightmares: When your doctor and hospital don't mix

What good is it to have a health plan if you can’t find doctors and hospitals to accept it?

Ask Emily on KPCC: 30 percent of Californians will be on Medi-Cal by 2015

Governor Jerry Brown’s new budget estimate accounts for a significant rise in the portion of the population enrolled in Medi-Cal. By 2015, 30 percent of Californians will be enrolled, about 11.5 million people.

Think you know what your Obamacare plan will cost you? Think again.

Obamacare’s inaugural open-enrollment period is over, and all you enrollees can breathe easy now.  Someday I’d like to write that sentence and mean it, but not today.

As enforcer of Obamacare, the IRS faces limits

Americans love their tax refunds. I know I do.  So why is conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh advising his listeners to avoid them?

More time to avoid the Obamacare tax penalty

In my last column, I warned you that March 31 was your last chance to sign up for a health plan from Covered California or the private market if you wanted to get health coverage this year.  

Ask Emily on KQED's Forum: Covered California Deadline Approaches

Monday, March 31, is the open enrollment deadline for Covered California, the state's new health insurance exchange. More than 1 million Californians have already signed up for coverage, the most of any state in the nation.

Last chance: The Obamacare deadline is here

Here it comes, folks, the deadline that I have been harping on for months: March 31 marks the end of Obamacare’s inaugural open-enrollment period and your last chance to sign up for a health plan through the state’s health insurance ex

Ask Emily on KALW's Your Call: What do you need to know about Obamacare?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, five million people have now signed up for plans through government health insurance exchanges. That number could reach six million by the March 31 deadline.
Obamacare's Kid Glitch Thumbnail

Obamacare’s ‘kid glitch’

Now that the Affordable Care Act is in full swing, many Californians are feeling tremendous relief that they have affordable health coverage, some for the first time. But what Obamacare giveth, it also taketh away.

CoveredCA's "reset" problem

$359 million dollars. That’s how much the state of California awarded Accenture to build and run, the insurance exchange website that has changed the way many of us buy health plans.

Ask Emily on KPCC's Take Two: What happens if your income changes?

People who purchase health plans through Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange, are eligible for tax credits depending on their income. But what happens if your income changes throughout the year?

Managing your money under Obamacare

My inbox is brimming with your personal Obamacare stories, and most of them aren’t joyous odes to the new health law.

Ask Emily on KALW's Your Call: Is Covered California working for you?

Covered California has had better success than other state health care exchanges, but it still suffers from low enrollment, especially among Latinos and youth. And many clients are having a hard time finding a doctor or hospital that will take a...

Ask Emily on KPCC’s Take Two: What to do if you get stuck in Obamacare’s mazes

So you enrolled in a new health plan and are getting ready to see the doctor for the first time in a long time. Sounds simple enough. But many people who have signed up with plans through Covered California are struggling with bureaucratic fiascos...

Ask Emily on KDVS: Obamacare and college students

Emily Bazar joins Chloe Lessard to answer the question: What should college students know about the Affordable Care Act?

Getting lost in Obamacare's mazes

To the people who run Covered California, the Medi-Cal program and health insurance companies: I know what a massive, confusing experiment Obamacare is.

Ask Emily on KPCC's Take Two: How big is California's Medi-Cal system?

Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange, is just one piece of Obamacare. In her regular segment on KPCC's Take Two, Emily Bazar discusses the expansion of Medicaid, the public insurance option for low-income residents, which has...
Ask Emily

Obamacare's other story: Medi-Cal has its own glitches

State officials have been crowing that more than 400,000 Californians have enrolled in plans through the state’s health insurance exchange, Covered California.

Ask Emily on KALW's Your Call: What are the successes and failures of the Affordable Care Act so far?

More than a million people have now signed up for policies through the federal ACA website. That’s not counting the 14 states with their own exchanges.

Ask Emily on KPCC's Take Two: Obamacare officially in effect

Now that it's 2014, those who bought insurance under the Affordable Care Act can officially start looking for their doctors.

Some Covered California applicants can’t get confirmation on health insurance

Margaret Rhode didn’t procrastinate. As soon as enrollment for health insurance plans began in October, she was on the Covered California website, seeking coverage for her 52-year-old son. Applying online, however, turned out to be more complicated...
Ask Emily

HSAs, COBRA: Do they mesh with Obamacare?

This is a critical moment in the evolution of Obamacare – and of this column. Tens of thousands of you already have enrolled in health plans that will kick in a few days from now, if they haven’t already.

Ask Emily on KPCC's Take Two: Obamacare enrollment deadline extended

You now have until December 23 to sign up for health insurance if you want it to kick in January 1. For the extreme procrastinators, open enrollment this year—and this year only— lasts through March 2014.
Ask Emily

Obamacare deadline looming. Are you ready?

Calling all procrastinators: There’s still time! Granted, I wagged my figurative finger at you in previous columns, warning you that Dec. 15 was the deadline to sign up for health insurance from Covered California or the open market if you want it...

Covered California Enrollment Deadline Looms

December 23 is the deadline to enroll for health insurance coverage that starts on January 1, 2014. In the last-minute rush to make the cutoff, nearly 50,000 people signed up through Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange, in the...

Live chat re-cap: Breaking down the complexity of Obamacare with answers

The Sacramento Bee’s recent live chat answered readers’ questions about the Affordable Care Act. Emily Bazar, a journalist and expert on the health insurance reform law, and Pauline Bartolone, who covers health care for Capital Public Radio,...

Ask Emily on KPCC's Take Two: How does coverage work for immigrants?

At least one in four Californians-- more than 10 million people-- were born in another country. In her regular segment on KPCC, Emily Bazar explains how the Affordable Care Act treats different categories of immigrants.

Ask Emily live chat transcript

Emily Bazar joins Capital Public Radio health reporter Pauline Bartolone for a live chat discussing the ins and outs of the Affordable Care Act.
Ask Emily

Obamacare affects immigrants, too

California has more immigrants than any other state. At least one in four Californians – more than 10 million people – were born in another country.

Ask Emily on KPCC's Take Two: What happens if you move out of your state's insurance coverage area?

Your health plan options – and prices – vary by geography, and the Golden State is chopped into a whopping 19 regions. So what happens if you're traveling outside of your region and need medical care?

Obamacare and You: a town hall on the Affordable Care Act

Ask Emily columnist Emily Bazar addressed questions on Obamacare for about 90 people at the Crawford Family Forum with KPCC Health Care Correspondent Stephanie O'Neill on November 19 in Pasadena.
Ask Emily

Planes, trains, and Obamacare

About 130,000 Americans pick up and move somewhere else every single day, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

Riverside: 'Ask Emily' columnist to speak on Obamacare

Emily Bazar — better known as the Ask Emily columnist who dissects Obamacare in newspapers, on the web and over the airwaves — is coming to Riverside next week to answer the public’s questions about healthcare reform.

Got questions on Obamacare? She’s got answers

When it comes to making sense of Obamacare, there are no easy answers. Just ask Emily. No, really. Emily Bazar has been writing about health care reform in all of its complexity since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010.

Columnist to answer Obamacare questions in person at Southern California events

“Ask Emily” columnist Emily Bazar takes her act on the road later this month with two appearances in Southern California.

Ask Emily on KALW’s Your Call: How the Affordable Care Act affects your health coverage

President Obama clearly pledged that Americans who were happy with their health plans could keep them. But now millions of people are receiving letters of cancelation from their providers because their plans don’t meet ACA requirements.

Ask Emily on Take Two: The lesser-known cost-sharing subsidies

You’re probably familiar with Obamacare’s tax credits that will reduce the cost of health insurance premiums for some people. On Take Two, columnist Emily Bazar explains the law’s lesser-known form of financial aid: cost-sharing subsidies.
Ask Emily

Good Obamacare news for veterans and low-income Californians

  Q: Will deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses, which are quite steep, be subsidized too?  Or will the policy holder be responsible for bearing the cost? 

Obamacare and your taxes: Ask Emily tells KPCC listeners how they mix

Like it or not, the Affordable Care Act and our tax system are inextricably linked. In her regular segment on KPCC’s Take Two, journalist Emily Bazar explains some important tax details to be aware of when you apply for health insurance.
Ask Emily

Death, taxes and … Obamacare?

Q: I have been on the Covered California website and the calculator asks for family size, which I presume means the taxpayer plus number of dependents claimed on federal tax forms. If a consumer claims non-child family members (like aging parents)...

Ask Emily on KPCC’s Take Two: How do you calculate your income for Obamacare?

What income is used to determine whether you’re eligible for tax credits from Covered California or for Medi-Cal?
Ask Emily

What you need to know NOW as Obamacare debuts

Over the past six months, your Obamacare questions have steadily piled up in my inbox. Now, “steadily” is a description I can only think back fondly on.

Ask Emily explains tax credits, provider networks and other Obamacare terms on KPCC

Obamacare is full of Byzantine terms such as tax credits and provider networks. Ask Emily tells KPCC’s Take Two what these terms mean, and what they mean for you.
Ask Emily

Tax credits? Subsidies? Provider networks? What these Obamacare terms mean to you

Q: Will doctors and hospitals who accept health insurance from companies like Blue Shield accept insurance sold by the health insurance exchange?

Ask Emily: Simplifying Obamacare

Is Obamacare for me? How much does it cost? What do I have to do? Obamacare is on the way and it’s complicated. Award-winning journalist and "Ask Emily" columnist Emily Bazar answers consumers’ questions about how this giant health overhaul will...

Obamacare Explained: A Guide for Californians

On January 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act went into full effect. By the end of February four million Americans had enrolled in a plan, and more than 800,000 of them are in California.

Obamacare For Californians: It's not that confusing. We promise.

The Affordable Care Act kicks into gear for most Americans on Jan. 1, 2014. For many, counting down the days stirs some degree of frenzy – health insurance policies are confusing already, and the health reform law tacks on 955 pages of new...

Ask Emily on KPCC's Take Two: Navigating the new Medi-Cal expansion

On Oct. 1, the new health insurance exchange - Covered California - will open for enrollment. That date also marks the start of pre-enrollment for the expansion Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program. Medi-Cal is publicly funded health insurance...
Ask Emily

Will you qualify for Medi-Cal under Obamacare?

Regular readers of Ask Emily know that on Oct. 1, Obamacare will experience a key rite of passage.

Ask Emily: Top 10 things to know about the Affordable Care Act

Love it or hate it (or don’t know anything about it), Obamacare is here. And President Barack Obama’s new health care law, known officially as the Affordable Care Act, confronts a critical first test in a matter of days.

Ask Emily Live: What health plan choices does Covered California offer?

Ask Emily columnist Emily Bazar explains Obamacare at a public forum in Modesto. This is a short video clip from that event. 

Ask Emily Live: Can't I just wait and buy insurance when I get sick?

Ask Emily columnist Emily Bazar explains Obamacare at a public forum in Modesto. This is a short video clip from that event. 

Ask Emily Live: How the "kid glitch" in employer-based health insurance can hurt you

Ask Emily columnist Emily Bazar explains Obamacare at a public forum in Modesto. This is a short video clip from that event.

Ask Emily on KPCC's Take Two: Will new insurance plans meet your needs?

The state’s new health insurance exchange, Covered California, promises to bring affordable health insurance to millions of residents.

Questions about ‘Obamacare’ answered in Modesto forum

It’s just about decision time for a ton of people affected by the Affordable Care Act, the federal law that will require U.S. residents to have insurance or pay a tax penalty next year.
Ask Emily

Will insurance plans sold by Obamacare’s new marketplace meet your needs?

Q: I’m currently on Medicare but pay out of pocket for a Blue Cross supplement policy. Will insurance companies offer Medicare supplement policies and prescription drug policies on the new health insurance exchange?

Health journalist will explain basics of Affordable Care Act in Modesto

A lot of people are confused about the major provisions of the federal health law that takes effect in January. People can bring their questions to an informational session at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Modesto Junior College’s West Campus.

Chat Transcript: Obamacare Q&A with Emily Bazar

This story originally appeared in the Modesto Bee.Confused about Obamacare? Want to know what it means for you?

Chat Transcript: Ask Emily about Obamacare

Columnist Emily Bazar answered your questions about the Affordable Care Act during a live chat on The Modesto Bee's website on Thursday, September 5.

KPCC’s Take Two radio show Asks Emily when to sign up for health reform

Ask Emily columnist Emily Bazar discusses the new rules that will control when you can buy or change your health plans under Obamacare. Big changes are coming.
Ask Emily

Changes coming: When can you buy or switch your insurance under Obamacare?

Q: Our 24-year-old daughter is employed full-time and her employer offers health insurance. Does she have to enroll in one of their plans or can she stay on ours until her 26th birthday?  

SoCal's KPCC Asks Emily about young people and the new health law

Center Columnist Emily Bazar appeared on KPCC’s “Take Two” morning show to discuss how the Affordable Care Act will affect young adults and college students.

How will young adults and college students fare under Obamacare?

Q: My youngest child is 21 and graduated from college in May. My other daughter is 24 and is still a college student in Stockton. What are my options with them under the Affordable Care Act?

Valley Public Radio asks Emily: What does Obamacare mean for you?

Senior Writer Emily Bazar spoke with Valley Public Radio's Joe Moore in a wide-ranging discussion about Obamacare.

Help! What can Obamacare do for me now?

Q: I am a married, 62-year-old female unable to obtain health insurance. I am retired and financially comfortable and in general good health. My husband is on Medicare/Anthem Blue Cross supplemental, so he is taken care of.
Ask Emily

Medi-Cal and Obamacare: More confusing twists

Q: If my family of six qualifies for Medi-Cal under the Affordable Care Act, do we have to sign up for that? Or can we still buy subsidized health care plans through Covered California?
Ask Emily

The “kid glitch”: Could your family fall into Obamacare’s affordability gap?

In my last column, I tackled your questions about choice.
Ask Emily

Obamacare, insurance and your choices: Options for Californians who don’t like their work-based coverage

Q: If my husband’s employer offers health care insurance but it is unaffordable, where does that leave us? Will we qualify for help under Obamacare or will we be out in the cold? We make about $45,000 annually.
Ask Emily

Medicare and the new health law: How it affects you

Q: I’m a Medicare recipient. How are people like me affected by Obamacare? A: This is no small question. We’re talking more than 50 million Americans and a program that spends more than $500 billion a year.

Rates released for new health insurance marketplace

Details of California’s new health insurance exchange were announced on Thursday. Thirteen insurance agencies will offer a variety of plans, with about five million people eligible for coverage. Senior writer Emily Bazar appeared on KCRW'sAll Things...
Ask Emily

Game changer: Obamacare’s new coverage rules and costs

  Q: I had colon cancer and have had trouble buying health insurance ever since. Under Obamacare, will insurance companies still be allowed to refuse me because of my medical history?
Ask Emily

Obamacare’s insurance requirement: Where do you fit?

Q: I’ve heard that some people won’t be required to have health insurance under Obamacare. Is this true?
Ask Emily

Searching for the right insurance under Obamacare

Q: I work at a family-owned restaurant and my boss has cut back my insurance coverage. I have to pay a lot more out of pocket on top of my monthly premium. Can I find a better deal on insurance under health reform?

Ask Emily: A new column answering questions about Obamacare

What is this Obamacare-related state health insurance thing called Covered California? How do I find out if it works for me? And if I’m healthy and young, say 28, do I need to get health insurance?
Ask Emily

How new exchange may help Californians buy health care

Q: I keep hearing about something called the health insurance exchange. What is it and how is it supposed to work?


Emily Bazar

Emily Bazar is a columnist and senior writer for the California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting, part of the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. Her column, “Ask Emily,” addresses readers’ questions about the Affordable Care Act. It appears in more than 25 newspapers and NPR affiliate websites across California, including the Daily News of Los Angeles, The Sacramento Bee, The Orange County Register, the Fresno Bee and the Riverside Press-Enterprise. The column is consumer-driven, and has generated more than 1,500 direct questions and comments to and hundreds more to the newspaper and NPR affiliate sites where it appears. In her role as Ask Emily, Bazar also regularly appears on KPCC’s Take Two and AirTalk,  KQED’s Forum, KALW’s Your Call  and Valley Public Radio. Outside of Ask Emily, she covers stories about Medi-Cal, children’s dental care and variation in the use of medical treatments. Her reporting on Medi-Cal’s troubled children’s dental program was awarded the 2011 California Journalism Award for Special Feature/Enterprise Reporting. Prior to joining the Center for Health Reporting, Bazar was a national reporter for USA TODAY, where she covered immigration, the effects of the economic recession and other topics....

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