What is Obamacare and how does it affect me?

What is Obamacare and how does it affect me?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

We have been bombarded with information about the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, ever since it was signed into effect in March 2010. We’ve looked at what’s out there to bring you a concise and informative article about healthcare reform and what the changes, many of which take effect in January 2014, actually mean.

The US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Population Affairs, describes the Affordable Care Act as a law that ”makes preventive care—including family planning and related services—more accessible and affordable for many Americans. While some provisions of the law have already taken effect, many more provisions will be implemented in the coming years.”

While Obamacare aims to make healthcare affordable and accessible, it’s causing concern to many part-time employees.

The Individual Mandate – Expanding Access to Coverage

The Affordable Care Act requires most U.S citizens and legal residents to have health insurance. Coverage can be purchased through the newly created state based exchanges, which provide information and comparisons between different plans. The new health care act won’t stop you from purchasing coverage, as you would have before, through an insurance broker, your employer or directly from a health insurance provider.

For those who choose not to purchase health insurance, a tax penalty will be due. The IRS will be responsible for monitoring if you carry qualifying health coverage. For 2014 the penalty will be the greater of 1.0% of taxable income or $95 per adult and this penalty will increase each year.

Health Insurance for All

The Affordable Care Act was also created so that individuals who were denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, would no longer be discriminated against when purchasing insurance. Health insurance companies are no longer able to deny coverage or charge more to anyone because of a pre-existing condition. The health care act also means that if you have a plan that covers children, you can add or keep your children on your insurance policy until they turn 26. In addition to this benefit, insurance companies now have to cover various preventive health services such as pap smears, mammograms, and colonoscopy screening for colon cancer.

While Obamacare aims to make healthcare affordable and accessible, it’s causing concern to many part-time employees. One of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act means that any business with 50 or more full time employees (30 hours or more a week) must offer coverage. A survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that 15% of businesses with more than 50 employees and 20% of businesses with less than 50 employees plan to adjust hours so that fewer workers will qualify for the full-time employee medical insurance requirement. This means many part-time employees will not only lose hours at work, they will lose their entitlement to employer health coverage with it.

What will be offered?

The new healthcare exchanges will offer four benefit categories of plans plus a catastrophic plan. The coverage in each plan will be categorized as bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. The bronze plan will provide minimum creditable coverage and the catastrophic plan will only be eligible for those up to age 30. Under the new system, people on lower incomes will be eligible for subsidies to help pay for their health insurance.

How the changes could affect you

If you are young and healthy, the changes brought about by Obamacare may lead to your health insurance premium increasing. Rates will be higher as this group will be paying extra to subsidize those who were ineligible for insurance previously. Supporters of the act hope that it will increase competition between insurance companies, lead to greater transparency, and eventually lower prices. On the other hand, 33 million newly insured people will put extra strain on the already stretched health care system. The Affordable Care Act will likely increase physician appointment wait times, decrease the length of appointments and increase the workload of already busy primary care physicians. This will be amplified by the existing shortage of primary care physicians. Many consumers are turning to personalized medicine because of concerns brought about by the Affordable Care Act, fearful that the changes will only make it more difficult to maintain a meaningful relationship with their physician.

So, whether you’re for the Affordable Care Act or against it, one thing’s for sure, there is no simple all-encompassing solution to fixing our troubled health care system.

http://www.hhs.gov/opa/affordable-care-act/index.html– US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Population Affairs. Affordable Care Act.
http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/facts/bystate/ca.html – State Fact Sheet
http://kff.org/health-reform/fact-sheet/summary-of-new-health-reform-law/ – The Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation Summary of the Affordable Care Act.
http://www.ifebp.org/Resources/Research/empsponsoredhcimpact13.htm – The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. 2013 Employer-Sponsored Health Care: ACA’s Impact.
http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/03-13-Coverage%20Estimates.pdf Updated Estimates for the Insurance Coverage Provisions of the Affordable Care Act

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