ObamaCare, officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010, and now a website is up and running to help you get health insurance.
The purpose of ObamaCare is to help the United States’ healthcare system — which is being economically depressed by the 15 percent of Americans who are uninsured and unable to pay for medication, proper treatment, or medical bills — by mandating that all Americans have health insurance and by improving coverage.
Despite years of work, people are still confused by the realities of the act and what it means for their health insurance.
Here is what you need to know about this complicated act:
1. You Do Not Have to Sign Up for ObamaCare
You do not need to sign up for government health insurance, but you are now required by law to have some kind of health insurance. Part of the challenge against the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is the fine it will charge people for being uninsured.
2. Some People Are Losing Their Health Insurance Policies: Why?
Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, private insurance companies are obligated to provide their customers with certain protections. These new protections are making some of their plans, especially cheaper plans, incompatible with the Affordable Care Act.
For example, PBS reported on this issue and showed that some older women who had insurance were having their plans canceled or the prices raised because their insurance was now forced to include maternity and pediatric coverage.
However, on November 14, President Obama announced that he is working to allow people to keep their pre-existing health insurance plans through 2014, but insurance companies will be required to notify customers on the benefits they will lose by not switching to the new ObamaCare-supported plan.
3. Medicaid Is Being Expanded
According to CNN, around 62 million people are currently insured by Medicaid, the government-provided health insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act, up to 7 million more Americans could be eligible for Medicaid. This means that adults with very low income, up to or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level, will now be eligible for Medicaid.
However, states are able to opt out of this Medicaid expansion, leaving those who would be covered by it waiting.
4. Some People Will Remain Uninsured: Who?
Although ObamaCare will penalize people with a fine if they are uninsured, some people will continue to live without health insurance:
Undocumented immigrants, people who choose to pay the fine rather then get insurance, families whose insurance would cost more than 8 percent of household income, and U.S. citizens who are eligible to get their insurance through Medicaid but do not enroll.
5. ObamaCare Has a Lot of Benefits: Like What?
Despite what you may have heard on the news, the Affordable Care Act does have a lot of benefits. For example:
• Children can now stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until they are 26
• The government will provide cost assistance for families struggling to buy health insurance
• Insurance companies can no longer drop a customer for being sick
• Health insurance companies can no longer deny people for pre-existing conditions
• The average American has more resources to appeal insurance companies
• People cannot be charged more based on health status or gender
6. Healthcare.gov Is the Insurance Plan ‘Marketplace’
Healthcare.gov was launched on October 1, 2013, and is supposed to be the online marketplace for shoppers to look through different insurance plans and pick the one that best fits their needs.
7. Healthcare.gov Has Been Having Problems Functioning: Why?
But, as you may have heard, healthcare.gov has been having a lot of problems. The website uses the work of 55 different contractors and not all of their individual pieces of software are interacting well with each other. Bad communication, functionality that was not well thought out, and technical glitches are all making customers very impatient.
If the website is not working for you, you can also call 24/7 at:
1-800-318-2596 for individuals or 1-800-706-7893 for small business owners who run a business with fewer than 50 employees.
8. You Have to Register by December 1 to Get Insurance on January 1
Do you want your new insurance to begin January 1, 2014? Then you have until December 1, 2013, to register.
9. You Must Have Health Insurance by March 31, 2014, or You Will be Fined
Open enrollment for ObamaCare will continue until March 31, 2014. If you do not have health insurance by March 31, you will be subject to the fine of $95 or 1 percent of income for being uninsured.
However, because of the problems people have had interacting with Healthcare.gov, some Democrats and Republicans are trying to extend the open-enrollment period past March 31 to compensate for the failings of Healthcare.gov and give Americans more time to get health insurance.
10. After One Month Only Around 100,000 People Signed Up
On November 13, 2013, the White House announced disappointing sign-up numbers for ObamaCare. According to CNBC, just 106,185 people have signed up for ObamaCare health insurance plans in the first month of sales, and even more disappointing, only 26,794 of those plans were sold on Healthcare.gov.