With the online health care marketplaces opening on October 1, news sources on Monday were urging Americans to start preparing, and the best way to do that is to know what questions you should ask.
This country is about to embark on the biggest piece of health care reform we have ever seen. We have known it was coming, ever since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was signed into law in March 2010.
While the Health Care Act has been plagued with uncertainty, it has managed to survive numerous attempts to get it repealed. Sadly, the indifference of many of our state legislatures to implementing the insurance exchanges and expanding Medicaid has not helped the public's perception of the law.
And now, with only days before the exchanges open, many people are still in the dark about what they should be doing, and what questions need to be answered. Sadly, state and federal government officials had plenty of time to get the public fully informed, but that didn't happen.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed his Healthy Michigan plan to expand Medicaid last week, another one of the key parts of health reform, and touched on the huge amount of misinformation and misunderstandings that surround the law, saying these misconceptions "need to be clarified in the next few months, and that's going to be a lot of hard work."
The federal government, insurance companies and other officials have already been working to inform individuals and employers about changes to the new law. Many of those changes will take effect on January 1, 2014.
They include a ban on denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions, no more annual limits on coverage, and Medicaid expansion in some states. (Michigan's Medicaid expansion will not be implemented until late March or early April.)
For now, most information the public will get has to do with the Marketplace that opens for business October 1, including subsidies and the individual mandate that takes effect next year. So we will try to do the same in this column, and try not to confuse everyone too much.
What is an exchange?
It is an online marketplace where individuals and employers can shop for insurance coverage. People can get information at www.healthcare.gov, where information on the federal exchanges as well as links to state-run exchanges.
This site is also where you can find out if you are eligible for federal subsidies to help pay for your insurance, and if you are eligible for Medicaid.
Will all the states have exchanges?
Yes, all the states have an exchange. Some are run by the state and some are run by the federal government. A few states have their exchanges in partnership with the federal government.
Who will use the exchanges?
The exchanges are primarily for people who are uninsured, people who don't get coverage through their employer, or those whose employer-based insurance coverage is too costly or is lacking in the needed benefits.
People who are in this country illegally will not be allowed to use the exchanges. Legal immigrants can use the exchanges, and may qualify for subsidies, as long as their income is no more than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, $46,000 for an individual and $94,200 for a family of four.
Virginia insurance exchange
Virginia has a long list of insurance companies, and they are ranked by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, NCQA. The rankings are based on customer satisfaction, overall performance in preventing and treating certain common conditions, and NCQA accreditation status.
This website is excellent in that it takes the consumer step-by-step through the process of selecting the right insurance provider. Click HERE to visit the site. Lastly, take the time to think about what it is you want in a health care plan.
Look into the sites provided and become familiar with navigating the web page. The process doesn't have to be difficult, and you may be surprised to find out it is easier than you think. We will next discuss the different types of plans available.