WASHINGTON — Getting covered under President Barack Obama’s health care law might take you more than one sitting. In a media preview Monday, it felt like a cross between doing your taxes and making an important purchase that requires research.
‘‘Nothing like this has ever existed before,’’ said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
You’ll need accurate income information for your household, plus some understanding of how health insurance works, so you can get the financial assistance you qualify for and pick a health plan that’s right for your needs.
The process involves federal agencies electronically verifying your identity, citizenship and income, and you have to sign that you are providing truthful information, subject to perjury laws.
You heard it was going to be like buying airline tickets online? Not quite. But even if it triggers some anxiety, it’s not the government poking into your medical records, as ‘‘Obamacare’’ foes have suggested.
After state health insurance markets open today, people who don’t have health care on the job can apply online, via a call center, in person or by mail. Trained helpers are supposed to be available, but there may not be enough of them in every state. Foreign language interpreters are available through the call centers.
The main steps are:
• Identify yourself and your family members.
• Provide current information on income, jobs and any available health insurance options.
• Learn how much financial assistance you’re entitled to.
• Shop for a health plan and enroll.
Many people will qualify for tax credits to help buy a private insurance plan. The government will send money directly to your insurer, and you’ll make arrangements to pay any remaining premium.
The poor and near-poor will be steered to Medicaid in states that agree to expand that program.
Here’s an overview of what to expect applying online, with tips:
Go to healthcare.gov and click on ‘‘Get Insurance.’’ The site has links to every state market. You’ll set up an account and password. You’ll provide your contact information and the best way to reach you.
Tip: Treat your password like a bank account or credit card password.
Now you can tackle the actual application. You’ll need birth dates and Social Security numbers for yourself and other family members listed on your federal tax return.
You’ll also be asked if you’re a citizen. Legal immigrants will need their immigration documents.
Tip: You don’t have to plow through the entire application at once. You can save your work and come back later.
Next, you’ll be asked about income.