With all of the politically charged messages that are being spread about The Affordable Healthcare Act, more commonly known as ObamaCare, it can be difficult to get all of the facts about the new law. While some political back and forth is almost to be expected amongst parties, it is important for individuals to break through the noise and truly understand what the healthcare bill is all about and how it will affect them. After all, this piece of legislation will have an impact on what is crucial to all Americans – our health.
Today, in Part I of our Close Look at the Affordable Care Act, we take a look at the controversial law and outline some of its major provisions.
In Part II of the series, we’ll answer some common questions consumers may have about the new law, such as how the healthcare exchanges work, how individuals can obtain insurance coverage and how insurance companies will determine new insurance rates.
What is the Affordable Healthcare Act?
The Affordable Healthcare Act is a piece of legislation that was signed into law on March 23, 2010. The law aims to help stop abusive or bullying practices by insurance companies (such as denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions), and provide affordable options for individuals and families who do not receive healthcare coverage from their employer or other sources.
The law also included a tax credit for small businesses in 2011 to help them pay for the health insurance of their workers. The law also put into place new Medicare rules, aimed at reducing fraud, bringing down prescription costs and reducing the number of seniors who experience a gap in coverage, also known as the “donut hole.” Lastly, the bill also includes provisions to cover young adults through age 26, provide free preventive screenings to qualifying individuals and offer other “essential health benefits” such as maternity care and mental health treatment.
When does the Affordable Healthcare Act go into effect?
The open enrollment period for the Affordable Healthcare act began on October 1, 2013 and continues through March 31, 2014. During the open enrollment period, uninsured Americans can access various resources to comparison shop among a variety of health care plans. After March 2014, those individuals who have not obtained health insurance, whether through their employers or the Health Insurance Marketplace, will be subject to an individual mandate, or tax that is equal to $95 per adult or 1 percent of income, whichever is greater. Individual mandate rates will rise in 2015 for those who remain uninsured.
Can I sign up after March 31st?
Individuals who are without insurance can only sign up through the health insurance marketplace during the open enrollment periods, just as when signing up with an employer. The next open enrollment period will be Oct. 15th to Dec. 7th. Individuals who get married, have a child or experience another qualifying “life event” can enroll in between that period.
Read Part II of our Close Look at the Affordable Care Act for more on the law.
– By Samantha B. Rivers, Editor