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Affordable Health Care Act lives up to its name: What consumers should know

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Preliminary report shows Affordable Health Care Act will mean low cost premiums.

President Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act appears to live up to its name, though there are wide variations in what each state will offer as part of their insurance exchange.

Consumers wishing to enroll who have no health insurance who want to change plans, are under age 65 and those who operate small businesses will be given premium and plan options beginning October 1.

Health insurance coverage for October 1 enrollment then begins January 1, 2013. Enrollment ends March 31, 2014.

If you don’t have health insurance now, you can purchase online or from a broker. Until the Health Market place opens, there are still some things consumers should know about purchasing health care coverage including:

• You can still be denied coverage for existing health conditions
• Men’s premiums may be lower than women
• Some plans may offer sparse coverage, making it important to review the plan benefits closely
• Lower costs do not apply based on income
• You’ll want to find out when you can disenroll if you’re considering buying a less expensive plan for January, 2013 coverage

You will also want to take advantage of any savings available. Low-income families and individuals may qualify for low-income subsidies that can lower medication costs and pay your insurance premium or Medicaid. Children could qualify for Medicaid coverage; even those who have been denied in the past though the CHIP program from Medicaid expansion in some states.

What will insurance cost under Obamacare?

Yesterday, Federal Officials released a snapshot of what health insurance premiums will look like under Obamacare.

According to the report, the lowest cost is $3,000 a year before federal tax credits.

Some plans could be much lower than others. Variables include the insurance carrier, type of coverage that will range from minimal coverage to extensive (bronze to platinum coverage), where you live, how old you are and how much money you make. Consumers not insured in the workplace will have several options to explore.

One of the reasons some plans could cost double according to geographic location is because of competition from insurance companies.

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“For millions of Americans, these new options will finally make health insurance work within their budgets,” Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday in a press release.

A Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced on September 16 revealed 10.8 million Americans eligible to obtain insurance through the Health Marketplace would likely pay $100 or less per month for subsidized silver or bronze health insurance coverage.

People who have been uninsured because of underwriting policies will now have choices. For those unable to still afford health insurance coverage, it’s up to the state to take a closer look at Medicaid expansion – something President Obama has emphasized.

If you need affordable health insurance, visit the Insurance Marketplace to find out who runs the marketplace in your state, which might be the state or the federal government. Once you select your state you will be presented with options to explore.

So far, 16 states have opted to run their own exchanges.

Uncertainties for consumers

Because Republicans still seek to defund Obamacare, there are uncertainties for consumers, one of which is a looming government shut down on October 1 if a stalemate occurs.

"The defunding efforts foster confusion and uncertainty," said Ian Hill, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute specializing in health policy. "Large proportions of people don't understand what the law will do for them. Some don’t know it is the law of the land,” states a Medscape nurse’s report.

Some companies, like Trader Joe’s and Home Depot have announced they will drop employee coverage once the insurance exchange becomes available. So for now, no one knows how many people will be enrolling, which could impact consumer pocketbooks.

If all goes well and if the Insurance Marketplace website is up and ready to go on October 1, which is another uncertainty, millions of Americans who are presently or soon to be uninsured will have access to health insurance coverage. Preliminary reports, which could change, indicate the Affordable Healthcare Act is expected to live up to its name.

If you have lost your current insurance coverage under Obamacare, explore the Health Exchange website. Insurance companies are not required to keep your current plan.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Updated: Nov. 25, 2013