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Thursday, 19 December 2013 14:49

Obamacare Sign-up Deadline Approaches

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The deadline for citizens to sign up for new government-mandated healthcare programs is quickly approaching, as the final day to enroll is Dec. 23.

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, allows legal U.S. residents to gain more access to high-quality affordable insurance and health care, according to the federal government. But the law irks some, as it also requires citizens to purchase healthcare or pay a tax penalty; discounts are available for lower-income residents.

Citizens can purchase care through new healthcare exchanges, which allow consumers to compare plans. Though many states are taking part in the federal exchange, which has been plagued by website issues, the State of California created its own marketplace: Covered California.

Turlockers can head to California’s marketplace, Covered California, at www.coveredca.com.
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U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) is not in favor of the act, and continues his campaign against the ACA. Denham argues the law should apply equally to all; the employer mandate, which requires firms with 50 or more employees to offer health coverage, has been delayed until 2015, though individuals must purchase healthcare starting Jan. 1.

But the federal government says repealing the act would put the healthcare plans of nearly 60 percent of uninsured U.S. citizens in jeopardy. If the ACA stays in effect, this 60 percent could purchase insurance for $100 a month – or less.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that under ACA, “advanced premium tax credits will be available to help individuals and families afford insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.” The site also explains that with ACA, states will be able to expand Medicaid eligibility for low-income adults.

The enrollment period for health insurance began Oct. 1 under the ACA, and coverage will begin on Jan. 1, 2014. The fast-approaching date that is sending many into a panic.
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The site, though, focuses on the positives, as it explains that for the first time, residents will be able to make true “apples to apples” comparisons of health insurance to find the right plan at the best price.

According to Covered California, as part of ACA “all insurance plans must cover essential health benefits such as doctor visits, hospitalization, emergency care, maternity care, pediatric care for your kids, prescriptions, among other services. All newly sold health insurance plans – whether sold through Covered California or outside the marketplace – will cover these services.”

This means that even for those residents sticking with their current private health care plans, these added “essentials” will be made mandatory by law. But some private healthcare plans have been canceled rather than updated to meet the new standards; sending Californians scrambling to find new coverage. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Thursday that those with canceled plans may be eligible for an exemption from tax penalties.
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Despite some issues, Covered California claims it will improve access to quality coverage, make health care coverage affordable, and improve the health of all Californians.

And though costs may increase for some in the short-term, the ACA is projected to cut costs in the long run.

By reducing the number of uninsured through programs like MediCal, Covered California is reducing the health care costs for all Californians. Currently, the burden of uncompensated care is a cost borne by all of those who have insurance.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, repealing the Medicaid expansion would cost state governments $10 billion over the next decade.
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