The first big test of the Affordable Care Act starts on October 1, when the online health insurance marketplaces, the centerpiece of President Obama’s health-care law, are scheduled to open for business. Sign-ups will begin on October 1 and continue through March 2014, with coverage to begin on January 1, 2014.
If, after all of the controversy surrounding “Obamacare,” including its role in the government shutdown, you still have questions about the law, you’re not alone.
Here’s what you need to know:
Is the Affordable Care Act Actually Affordable?
According to The New York Times:
That probably depends a lot on patients’ needs, where they live and — importantly — their preconceptions of what health insurance is supposed to do, experts say. The insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, will sell four different levels of plan — bronze, silver, gold and platinum — with the more expensive plans offering the most extensive benefits. And while premiums for the low-end plans may be relatively cheap, they still require significant out-of-pocket payments, in the form of co-payments and deductibles that could add up to more than $6,000 a year.
A Few Facts About the Affordable Care Act:
* Nearly half of Americans who have individual insurance plans will receive assistance averaging $2,672 to purchase plans on the Obamacare marketplace.
* People can no longer be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions like cancer.
* Insurance companies will be required to spend 80% of premium dollars on health care. If they don’t, they’ll be forced to give consumers a refund to make up the difference.
* Young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they’re 26 years old.
* Small business owners will receive tax credits so they can afford to offer quality health care to their employees.
* There will be no more lifetime insurance caps, and families will no longer go bankrupt just because they get sick.
So far, so good, right?
All About Exchanges
An exchange is a website designed to make it easy for people to find health coverage. Each state will have one. Some states have their own exchange, and the rest are either partnering with the federal government or relying on the federal government to operate their exchanges. To find the correct site, go to www.healthcare.gov.
Exchanges are designed for the uninsured, people who buy their own coverage and those whose employer-provided coverage is too expensive or lacks important benefits. However, most workers at bigger companies that provide health coverage won’t use them.
All plans will offer “essential benefits” that include hospitalization, emergency care, maternity and pediatric care, mental-health care and prescription drug coverage. Plans must cover preventive care — including flu shots, routine vaccinations and mammograms — at no cost.
You can create an online account at www.healthcare.gov or with your state-run exchange. The exchange will display a list of health plans, their premiums and out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles and co-payments. Or, if you prefer, you can fill out a paper application and apply over the phone.
If you don’t buy insurance by January, you will face a penalty of $95, or 1 percent of your income, whichever is greater, for the first year. The fine increases to $695, or 2.5 percent of income, in 2016.
Various glitches have emerged with the Affordable Care Act, but it is a great start to providing reasonably priced health care for everyone.
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