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Self-Employed Workers' Big Concern About Obamacare Subsidies

A health-care enrollment event in Oakland, Calif.
A health-care enrollment event in Oakland, Calif.Photograph by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Question: In 2013, my husband and I were both employed and had company-provided health insurance. In 2014, we are both unemployed and starting our own business. We’re not sure what kind of income we’ll bring in this year so we’re not sure how to figure out if we qualify for Obamacare subsidies. Our 2013 income will be too high to use as an estimate. Also, if we qualify for large subsidies, can we take them now and then reduce them later if our business takes off and we make more than expected? This seems like an obvious concern for many self-employed people.

Answer: This is indeed a large concern and it is particularly tough for you, since first-year business income can be wildly unpredictable. Even for the long-term self-employed, the uncertainty around estimating income to determine eligibility for subsidies is one of the major complications of signing up for state and federal Affordable Care Act marketplaces, oftentimes called Obamacare exchanges.