Getting ready for ‘ObamaCare’

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Some informative reporting today from Michelle Singletary at the Washington Post. I would encourage Arizona's print media to pick up this series of columns by Singletary to, you know, actually inform your readers about "ObamaCare" and the health insurance exchanges coming online October 1. Getting
ready for Obamacare
:

A marketplace like no other is opening soon.

Beginning Oct. 1, people without health insurance will be able to shop for what is promised to be affordable coverage.

It’s all part of the rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable
Care Act, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in
2010. For the past three years, various parts of the law have been
implemented: Young adults can stay on their parents’ health insurance
until they turn 26; insurance companies are prohibited from imposing
lifetime dollar limits on essential services such as hospital stays;
people with Medicare get free preventive services.

Next up is a
part of the law that requires most Americans to maintain “minimum
essential” health insurance coverage. It’s one of the more controversial
provisions of the law commonly referred to as Obamacare.

* * *

This is the first in a series of columns explaining the provisions of
the law that are due to take effect next year. But ultimately, you’re
going to have to do some research yourself. Don’t be informed by rumors
or the political discourse surrounding this law. There’s enough
complication in the application of the provisions that you don’t need to
add to your fears or frustrations by getting advice that is politically
motivated.

Thankfully, you have help. Your first stop should be HealthCare.gov (or CuidadoDeSalud.gov
for Spanish speakers). It’s an easy site to navigate. The information
is nicely broken down in various sections. Each state and the District
of Columbia will have access to a health insurance marketplace. Your
state may have set up its own exchange, or maybe it plans to join with
other states to create a regional exchange. Or perhaps your state opted
to let the federal government establish an exchange.

Once you’re at HealthCare.gov, click on the link for “Get Insurance.”
You want to do this first so you can see if you need to stay on the
site or go to a similar state-run site to apply for coverage, compare
plans and enroll once the marketplace is open.

If you don’t want
to go online or you don’t have easy access to a computer, you can call
for help in figuring out how you are affected. The government has set up
a call center with staff members who speak 150 languages. You can reach
them 24 hours a day, seven days a week toll-free at 800-318-2596, and
hearing impaired callers using TTY/TDD technology can dial 855-889-4325
for assistance. Workers called navigators also are being trained around
the country to assist folks.

To encourage the uninsured to
purchase essential coverage for themselves and their dependents, the
government put in place a penalty for those who refuse. The Henry J.
Kaiser Family Foundation (www.kff.org) has a great graph to illustrate the requirement to buy insurance and the penalties. Search for: “The Requirement to Buy Coverage Under the Affordable Care Act.”
If you can afford coverage and still don’t seek it, the fee starts at
$95 for an individual up to $285 for a family or 1 percent of a family’s
income, depending on which is higher. The fee increases every year. By
2016 it rises to $695 per adult or 2.5 percent, whichever is higher.

Here’s
the thing. If the government determines that your income is such that
you can or should be able to pay for your own insurance and you don’t
fall under an exemption, you’ll be responsible for 100 percent of any
medical care you might need.

So how do you know if the mandate
includes you? There are a number of ways to avoid paying a penalty,
including coverage through an employer, a veteran’s plan, Medicare or
Medicaid. If you don’t fall into the various categories to avoid a fee,
you can still request an exemption.

The health insurance exchange
will allow you to compare plans sold by different insurance companies.
The big question is what you will have to pay. The answer is, it
depends. That information won’t be available until Oct. 1.

With
government subsidies, you may be able to lower your monthly premiums
based on your income. It is also possible that you’ll fall into a gap
where the health insurance plans offered are still too costly.

I
know. It’s a lot to take in and I’ve just covered the basics. But if
you’re uninsured, you won’t know if you can or cannot afford health
insurance if you don’t investigate what the new marketplace has to
offer. Please go shopping beginning Oct. 1 and find out. We all need
medical care at some point and this may make it more affordable.

I will be following Ms. Singletary's columns for your benefit.

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