Three Pages Later, Health Insurance?
By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations
Controversy surrounds the Affordable Care Act (now commonly referred to as Obamacare by detractors and proponents) and confusion about implementation abounds. I’ve written about various aspects of the law, and how it will affect Georgia, on this blog, and have followed the ambitious law since it was first conceived of in 2009. Almost every facet of the law has been challenged either in court or in Congress. This October, one of the most contentious creations of the ACA will open for business – state health insurance exchanges.
Health insurance exchanges (or marketplaces) are mandated by the ACA. Each state was given the opportunity to run their own exchange, but many (including Georgia) opted out. In states that chose to eschew creating their own exchange, the federal government will run one on their behalf. The marketplaces will operate online, and will open for business nationwide on October 1, 2013. Individuals and families will be able to shop for health insurance, with different plans laid out side-by-side so users can compare prices, benefits, and determine what monthly plans will cost.
In April, the first draft of the insurance application forms for individuals and families came out. They were lambasted, and for good reason. The application for a family of four reportedly asked more than 900 questions. So, at the beginning of May, a condensed form was released. The previous application for families was 21 pages long – the new application is eleven pages. The application for individuals is now three pages. Of course, these new forms have also been subject to criticism. Forbes’ Scott Gottlieb, among others, speculated that the short forms are left open to fraud.
The form’s appearance is another mark of the Affordable Care Act’s entrenchment. Despite repeated attempts at repeal – the 37th vote to repeal Obamacare took place earlier this month – the law continues to work its will on American health care. California made headlines this month when their exchange, Covered California, released premium rates that were far below anticipated prices. Low cost (or even no-cost health insurance for those who qualify for federal subsidies) will go a long way in encouraging low-income Americans to buy health insurance.
When the marketplaces open in October, people with pre-existing conditions will not be barred from coverage. In fact, the application doesn’t even ask for information regarding pre-existing conditions. There is a slight catch, however. The enrollment period only lasts until March 31, 2014. Individuals and families must enroll during the time frame. You can chose not to buy health insurance, but if you get sick before the next enrollment period, you’re on your own. It’s a risk that’s not worth taking. The cost of treating a broken arm or leg quickly add up, and if you’re unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with cancer without insurance, the costs could top 1,000,000 dollars.
The health insurance applications ask your age, rating area (where you live), how many people are in your family, and whether or not you smoke. Older people will pay more than younger people for coverage. People who live in Atlanta can expect higher premium costs than people living in small towns. City dwellers are in high-cost care areas. Smaller towns generally have lower care costs. If you’re a smoker, it’s time to quit. Right now! Smoking cigarettes is bad for your health, something the government is well aware of. Depending on what state you live in, you may pay 1.5 times more than non-smokers for the same health care.
Whether you’re cheering on the advancement of Obamacare or hoping that the inevitable 38th vote to repeal the law is successful, keep following my blog for information as the ACA progresses. In 2014, Americans will be required to have health insurance or pay a fine. 2013 has already been a big year in health care. As the countdown to October begins, I’ll be watching (and blogging) with interest.