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5 Ways Health Care Reform Will Affect Everyone

Multi-Ethnic Group Of PeopleBy now you probably know that under Obamacare, every American man, woman and child is required to carry health insurance by January 1, 2014. Along with the universal coverage requirement, there are a whole raft of other changes coming into play, up and down the system.

If you’re lucky enough to have a stable employer with excellent benefits, you may feel like you don’t need to pay much attention. But at some point, no one will be immune from this sweeping overhaul.

Here are five ways that everyone will feel the Affordable Care Act.

1. What you pay will change. How it will change depends on who you are.

One of the goals of the new law is to drive down costs. But the debate is still raging over whether insurance rates will actually go down—or up. Chances are, they’ll do both.

With the way our health insurance system works now, many sick people are tossed aside or charged more by insurers. With many of the “high-risk” folks out of the pool, prices are lower for the young and the healthy (though many of them now opt out of insurance entirely).

The universal coverage mandate means everyone must get into the pool—and that will make some waves. If you’re over 45 and/or you’re unhealthy, you might see your rates go down. But if you’re young and rarely visit the doctor, you might be in a different boat: your costs could rise.

How much your rates change will vary by where you live, your age, your income, your current coverage, and your gender. Expect to see the biggest increases if you are young and male (sorry, guys!). The consolation is that 26 million low- and moderate-income people are expected to qualify for government subsidies.

Put plainly, the young and healthy will subsidize the old and sick. That’s the way insurance pools work, after all. If that sounds shocking, you should know you’re already doing it: it’s how our Medicare system takes care of retirees. So if you’re paying more now, take solace in the face that you’ll likely be at the receiving end someday.

 2. You won’t need to hide your past.

Nearly one in five Americans suffer from high blood pressure, and tens of millions more have diabetes, asthma, arthritis, cancer, a history of heart attacks and a host of other conditions that have been used by insurance companies to charge more or deny coverage altogether.

Every insurer has a different list of “pre-existing conditions”—some major, and some that could turn out to be insignificant—so it’s tough to get an accurate count of how many people are in this boat. But a Government Accountability Office review estimated it’s between 20 percent and 66 percent of the population—depending on how many types of chronic conditions are included. For women, the high-end estimate is 72 percent.

Under Obamacare, insurers are banned from rejecting people based on their health history. And they can’t charge more either.

That’s important for everyone. Even if you feel immortal and your health record is as clean as the day you were born, the chances are pretty high that you or someone you love will be diagnosed with a chronic or serious condition at some point. With universal coverage, they won’t be penalized for it.

3. You can go mobile.

Once it’s up and running, the re-vamped health care system will make it easier to move around—from job to job, plan to plan, and doctor to doctor.

Until now, the insurance company penalties for pre-existing conditions have seriously limited people’s ability to become self-employed or move between employers—so-called job lock. Those days are over.

Also under the new law, insurers are prohibited from charging new enrollees higher rates than existing customers for the same plan, and from baiting new customers with teaser rates and then jacking them up. Those reforms mean fewer repercussions for changing insurers.

The health-care overhaul also happens to coincide with the explosive expansion in cloud computing. New rules encourage coordination between healthcare providers—think of it as billing for packages of care rather than itemized billing. This increased integration means that medical records will have to be stored and shared electronically, and be accessible from anywhere.

Besides being a boon to the tech companies who will get new business, this also means your records will be more portable.

4. Even if you do end up paying more up front, you’ll have fewer unpleasant surprises.

Another key part of the Affordable Care Act is that insurers are banned from putting annual limits on coverage. They also can’t peg lifetime coverage to dollar amounts, and there are caps on out-of-pocket spending tied to income.

In addition, all insurance plans must meet certain standards, and they must include a package of care classified as “essential health benefits.” To be certified, all plans must include services in ten broad categories, from maternity and newborn care to mental health issues and emergency care. Some services must be provided without any co-payments or deductibles. These standards apply to both individual and all employer-provided plans.

While individuals can still choose to buy basic insurance with minimal services, there will be no more “junk plans,” or surprises hidden deep in the fine print. In other words, people who thought they had catastrophic coverage won’t find themselves walking out of an emergency room and straight into bankruptcy. That should help drive down the number of people with unpaid bills or crippling medical debt—last count, 75 million.

5.    Everyone will be confused, and the system won’t be perfect.

With so many moving parts in such a complex system, there are many things that could go wrong. Some people and companies will find ways to take advantage of the chaos. Many of the changes are experimental, and even though they’ve been studied and debated and planned for, there’s no guarantee that it will all work smoothly.

The only guarantee is that things will be topsy-turvy for some time to come. For the near future, expect conflicting information, media reports of snafus and probably some horror stories. But it can’t be worse than the system we have now.

Find out more about how to shop for plans and what documents you’ll need by visiting Rocket Lawyer’s Affordable Care Act center.

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10 Comments

  1. Evan Guthrie says:

    Good information on the Affordable Care act and helping break it down.

    • randy pullen says:

      A bit of a Polyannaism. What about the 100s of thousands who will see their work week cut back to 28 hours so their employer can avoid having to provide healthcare or being fined $2,000 to $3,000 per full time employee? What about the huge increases in deductibles? i could go on, but i think i made my point.

  2. Darlene Elliott says:

    Is Laura employed by the Federal Government? There is nothing good about the overhaul that has been done. Rates going thru the roof, deductibles being tripled, out of pocket so high you might as well not even have insurance. Were there problems before – yes and so we should have addressed those, not trashing a system that was at least 80% working and giving what most people needed. I will unsubscribe from any services that you might provide, based on the fact that evidently you are a mouth piece for President Obama.

  3. TJK says:

    OMG! I can’t believe you are drinking the kool-aid! This is not about healthcare. This is about control. This is the first step to run private insurers out of business and create a single payer system. It WAS a free market system. Now, it’s a fasciast system. When single payer arrives, it will be a communist system. There is little wrong with the current system that deregulation won’t solve. This is the single most devastating thing our government could do to your freedom. It will not be less expensive OR affordable, and millions will still be uninsured.

  4. Benito Volcy says:

    Good info’s for the people that do not comprehend what’s going on! People need to be educated on this healthcare issues. Too many conflicts informations! I know for sure no matter what it is, it cannot be worse than what we presently have! Thanks for the info’s.
    Keep passing around the good info’s

  5. Myrna Elliott says:

    Miss Laura Counts, have you tried dividing the current population into the total amount that the Affordable Care Act will have cost the tax payers to see what could be contributed as a stipend to each man, woman and child in the US?

  6. Skipper says:

    You’re dreaming. This fiasco is leading to nothing but disaster.

  7. Matt Lae says:

    “But it can’t be worse than the system we have now.” Only a hack would write this. A hack is someone who is willing to sell out the truth to advance their agenda. In this case, the agenda is liberalism/socialism. A free healthcare system is better than a government-controlled system. I know this and I also know the law was shoved down the throats of the American people to “help the 30/40/50 million Americans without healthcare.” I am one of those Americans. Even though I do not have health insurance, I still have healthcare! Every single person in America had access to healthcare before this law was passed. Stop the lies, half-truths and the propaganda and just come right out with where you stand. Tell us you believe in liberalism, socialism, Marxism, communism, totalitarianism or whatever other form of government where central planners control our lives. Until you do, you will be nothing less than a hack. Obamacare will ruin this country. We are past the point of getting our national debt under control since your dear progressive leader took office. Yet people like you are glad the granddaddy of all social programs has been forced upon us. It will run deficits every year, adding to our fiscal woes. Care will worsen or be denied. Everything about this law stinks and you ought to be smart enough to realize it, especially if you are a lawyer. But the more laws that are passed, the more there is for lawyers to do, so maybe that figures into your agenda as well. Thank you for allowing this comment to be posted.

  8. Harry Moore says:

    No offense but this is the same fluff we have heard on the news and in print 4 a long time now?

    How about facts related to the penalties and options 2 opt-out.

    I am a small LLC startup with 1 employee, myself, and I have heard there will be a $5k penalty for each employee with no insurance.

    I am incurring a ton of debt, things aren’t going exactly to my business plan, so it is either put it on another credit card or turn off the advertising, DSL and eventually trips to the grocery store so I opt to buy health insurance?

    Maybe I should be a shut-down business and throw myself to the mercy of the welfare state before I get in too deep.

    I am sincere and serious about needing this type information to make decisions and Rocket Lawyer has been with me since the inception of my business.

    So a little more detail in a follow-up article would be nice!

    • Everyday Law Staff says:

      Hi Harry,

      Thanks so much for your comment and apologies for the late response.

      This question is a bit beyond my place to speak, so I’d like to connect you with an attorney who can speak to you directly about your situation. Please see this link for more information
      https://www.rocketlawyer.com/ask-a-lawyer.rl

      For specific questions pertaining to your legal situation, it’s best to contact a lawyer.

      Thank you.