Thursday, October 23, 2014

Time to learn about Affordable Care Act before law goes live

9/16/2013

In less than 120 days, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which many know better as Obamacare, will be activated. Whether Americans were for or against the new health insurance bill, it soon will be the law of the land. Most people still are trying to wrap their minds around exactly how it will impact them. The Herald touched on a few areas of concerns in its recent three-part series examining the local impact of the Affordable Care Act, however, many details and side effects essentially won’t be embraced or known until the law’s provisions are live.

In less than two weeks, new insurance marketplaces are set to open with more complete offerings than most insurers now provide. Since Kansas didn’t set up an exchange — despite having 13 percent of its population uninsured — it will use the federal exchange with 10 required benefits.

In less than 120 days, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which many know better as Obamacare, will be activated. Whether Americans were for or against the new health insurance bill, it soon will be the law of the land. Most people still are trying to wrap their minds around exactly how it will impact them. The Herald touched on a few areas of concerns in its recent three-part series examining the local impact of the Affordable Care Act, however, many details and side effects essentially won’t be embraced or known until the law’s provisions are live.

In less than two weeks, new insurance marketplaces are set to open with more complete offerings than most insurers now provide. Since Kansas didn’t set up an exchange — despite having 13 percent of its population uninsured — it will use the federal exchange with 10 required benefits.

The 10 benefits expected to be part of the Affordable Care Act include outpatient care, prescription drugs, emergency care, mental health services, hospitalization, rehabilitation services, preventive and wellness services, lab services, pediatric care and maternity and newborn care. Most insurers offer about 76 percent of that care now, so this is an expansion of services to even more people, but it comes at a price. That higher cost — with a lower number of working hours to qualify for employer-paid health insurance — already has shown signs of reducing the number of hours per week that some employees are scheduled to work.

Most reactions to the plan — including those of employers — so far have been much like Terry Chartier at the Ottawa Library: They don’t yet think they know enough about the Affordable Care Act to answer questions intelligently. With that in mind, several workshops have been set up so the most common questions can be answered. The U.S. Department of Labor is offering a webcast today and tomorrow for those who registered for it. Locally, two presentations are planned on the topic.

Gene Meyer, Lawrence Memorial Hospital chief executive officer, is expected to speak 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. today at The Lodge, 502 Ames St., Baldwin City, about how the Affordable Care Act will affect families. A Lunch ’N Learn session presented by the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce and Franklin County Development Council is planned for 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 7 at Neosho County Community College, 900 E. Logan St., Ottawa, to inform businesses about how the Affordable Care Act affects the health care they offer their employees.

The new health care exchanges that Americans will be able to access to select their desired health care might be more confusing than the current method most working people have, which is just taking what is available from their employer. Employers have a lot of tough decisions ahead on how to handle health insurance mandates or face requisite penalties for not abiding. Employees, employers and non-working people alike need to educate themselves about the new health care law and its impact on them. While the new law has many upsides, it is bound to leave some collateral damage in its wake.

It is an individual responsibility to seek out and educate ourselves about the new health care law. The time is here, and the time to act is now.

 

— Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher

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