Speak to most people, and they really have no idea what Obamacare really entails, how it will affect them (if at all), and where to begin researching. That’s why we put together this handy overview for anyone who wants to know more about their options come Oct. 1, 2013, the date in which open enrollment begins.
Although plans and prices will be available on that date, your new policy’s coverage will not begin until Jan. 1, 2014.
So here’s what Obamacare is and isn’t in a nutshell. It is a marketplace offered by private insurance companies that’s run by the federal government, or your state. Some states have chosen to offer their own “Exchanges,” while others have opted to let the federal government set up the programs for them.
The idea behind this marketplace or exchange is that private citizens can shop around for the best insurance rates and offerings to meet their individual needs. For those currently receiving health benefits through an employer, there is no obligation to change providers. For those unhappy with their current situation, or who are not currently insured, it’s time to do some comparison shopping and take your pick.
Proponents of the reform are promising better rates for people who are currently struggling to pay for their health care costs. Those who do not support the reform are voicing concerns that the new approach could ultimately cripple the health care system and hurt everyone in the long run. It’s really up to each individual to decide how and if the new health care system is an improvement to their current situation. For some it will be; for others, it won’t.
- Plans can not turn you away or charge higher premiums if you have a preexisting condition or illness.
- Insurance coverage is mandatory. Those below a certain poverty level will automatically qualify for Medicaid. Others may qualify for a tax credit subsidy (they must apply for this benefit). But ultimately, if you do not sign up with some type of insurance provider, you will be hit with a penalty tax.
- The health care reform will also affect business owners. Depending on the number of people they employ, businesses may be required by law to provide health insurance coverage, or incentivized if they do so when they are not required.
What to watch for
- Watch out for scams! The only place to make your health plan selection is HealthCare.gov, the site run by The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. From there, you can be connected to your state’s exchange page (if applicable). If you’re not sure how to proceed, you can call the hotline at 1-800-318-2596.
- That being said, do not provide any kind of personal information or payments over the phone or Internet to anyone claiming to be calling from a health care organization or insurance company. It is most likely an attempt to steal your identity or money. In addition, rates that are offered beginning Oct. 1 are locked in through March 31, 2014, as pointed out in this “Today Show” article, so don’t feel pressured by insurance representatives to sign up for a limited-time offer.
We’ll continue to cover this topic in the coming weeks and months since it’s an important issue affecting many of us. If you are particularly interested in any aspect of the health care reform, please share your questions and concerns in the comments section below, and we’ll do our best to address them.
In the meantime, check out WebMD’s Health Care Reform page for an in-depth look at what’s on the health care horizon, including an interactive quiz.