We are moving along toward implementation of the Affordable Care Act with more activity starting on October 1 and implementation of other provisions kicking in on January 1, 2014. Between assaults on the whole program from conservative politicians and the difficulties the government has had in trying to implement a massive social program there are still plenty of questions about what is happening. Some of the criticism of the Act is difficult to understand. The provision that is about to kick in this October is the opening of the Health Insurance Exchanges. The concept of health-care exchanges to foster competition and create a private insurance marketplace were based on a proposal by the conservative Heritage Foundation and tested in Massachusetts under Republican governor Mitt Romney.
While the jury is not in yet, it appears they are going to work more or less as advertised – by both conservatives and liberals. We posted on this blog a month ago on the early indications for competitive pricing for Washington health insurance and while the savings may not be as robust as other states, pricing seems to be at or below previous prices. Another aspect of the Act that has received a lot of objection is the “individual mandate” to buy insurance coverage. Some pundits have pointed out – a little unkindly – that individual mandates and subsidized premiums was a conservative argument when the alternative was a single payer system like Medicare. And, mandates are not uncommon, as 49 states require motor vehicle owners to purchase liability insurance under much the same theory – that everyone ought to be required to share the risk.
In Washington State, we are gearing up for the opening of the health insurance exchanges. The state is beginning to advertise the existence of the exchange in particular to convince young and healthy people to participate. The participation of these low risk groups will be key to keeping insurance premiums as low as possible.
The state, which is operating its own exchange, has established a website with tools and information that will help individuals understand and plan for the law which is scheduled to go into effect with a lot of its major provisions in January 2014. You can go to the website today at to find information and to use tools like a calculator to estimate costs and eligibility for financial support. The go-live date for the Health Exchange Call Center is September 3 with open enrollment in insurance plans beginning October 1, 2013 and continuing through March 31, 2014.
Another major provision of the Act is scheduled to kick in on January 1, 2014. As of that date, it will be illegal for health insurance companies to deny insurance to anyone with a pre-existing condition or charge that person any more for health insurance than they would any healthy person. This provision has already been in force for children with pre-existing conditions and insures they will be covered under their parent’s coverage as part of family coverage. In January 2014 this provision is extended to everyone.
Although the Affordable Care Act still has plenty of detractors, it has survived attempts to repeal and overturn it. There are still plenty of questions about both its implementation and whether or not we will be successful in enrolling enough young, healthy people to spread the risk and whether there will be abuse of the pre-existing conditions provisions by those who might wait until they are actually sick to purchase insurance. It does appear that the prospect of near universal coverage is having some impact on lowering premiums.
We will keep an eye on these developments here at Homer Smith Insurance and keep you informed as we learn more.