ObamaCare Deadline Nears with Uncertainty

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No one said that this would be easy.  As the Monday, March 31st deadline rapidly approaches, time for purchasing a healthcare insurance plan in the marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is dwindling.  Enrollment appears to be picking up and federal officials are concerned about a deluge in the final days.  So Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a rule change yesterday extending the deadline into mid-April for those with “special circumstances and complex cases” who would otherwise be subject to paying a penalty if enrollment is not completed by March 31st.  Memories of the glitches that plagued the system in October still haunt the Obama Administration and they do not want to be in the position of penalizing people who have tried to enroll but were denied by technical difficulties.  Good luck with that.

Obama-ACAThose who fail to enroll by the deadline must wait until November to purchase a plan and that plan will not go into effect until January 2015.  In addition they will be liable for a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of their annual income—whichever is greater.  The extension will further complicate an already cumbersome process because it’s being done on the honor system.  You only have to say that you made a valid attempt to enroll.  Still the enrollment period will be over soon and you need to move fast in order to comply and avoid penalties.

Social workers should be at the forefront of the drive to get people signed up.  People without health insurance are among the most vulnerable in our society.  These are those who we have pledged to empower and assist.  Yet, millions of eligible people will miss the deadline simply because they are not aware or have been misinformed by critics of the Affordable Care Act.  Millions more will be denied Medicaid because their governors have refused to accept federal funding.

The good news is there is much information available to assist you in learning about the Affordable Care Act.  Healthcare.gov is the federal government’s official portal into the Affordable Care Act marketplace.  Another site, ObamaCare Facts, contains a wealth of information on the ACA, health plans, the individual mandate and just about anything you want to know about the ACA healthcare marketplace.  The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has produced a printable guide about the ACA.  Enroll America offers a handy interactive Plan Picker to help you decide on the right policy and the Tax Policy Center has an ACA Calculator that will assist with calculating the penalty for not enrolling.

As the final push for signing up new enrollees moved forward, the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress marked the fourth anniversary on Sunday of President Barack Obama signing The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which became Public Law 111-148.  The passing of the law was the most profound reform of the United States healthcare system since the passage of Medicaid and Medicare nearly a half century ago.  Because of its comprehensive nature—the act has 906 pages—many questions remain about its implementation.  On June 28, 2002, the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the individual mandate but exempted states from mandatory expansion of Medicaid.  To date, 26 states have implemented Medicaid expansion, 19 states have refused, and the issue is being debated in 6 states.

Having gotten off to a rocky start with many of the exchange website malfunctioning, the federal government has not been able to meet many of its benchmarks.  However, they report more than 5 million people have signed up for healthcare insurance since the exchanges opened for business on October 1, 2013 and that another 3 million young people have healthcare insurance by being allowed coverage under their parents’ policies.  Despite more than 50 attempts to repeal or defund the ACA, it appears that Obamacare will become a permanent fixture on the American landscape.  HHS reported last week that 8 million seniors have saved $9.9 billion on prescription drugs because of provisions in the ACA.

The main features of the Affordable Care Act include: prohibiting insurance companies from denying healthcare insurance to individuals due to pre-existing medical conditions; establishing minimum standards for healthcare insurance policies; enacting an individual mandate that requires individuals to purchase healthcare insurance or pay a penalty; providing subsidies for low-income individuals; allowing dependent children to be covered by their parents’ insurance policies until the age of 26 years; and providing federal funding that would allow states to expand Medicaid coverage.

Decision time is only days away.  Hopefully there are social workers across the country who are busy assisting people in signing up for health insurance which has been out of the reach of millions of Americans for far too long.

The post ObamaCare Deadline Nears with Uncertainty appeared first on Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy.

Written By Charles E. Lewis Jr., Ph.D

ObamaCare Deadline Nears with Uncertainty was originally published @ Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy » Charles Lewis and has been syndicated with permission.

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