Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, recently lambasted the critics of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), saying the new insurance rates released by state-run health exchanges are incorrect and not indicative of what health consumers will have to pay. She further implied that conservative Republicans are skewing the data or being purposely vague about the projected premiums in an effort to discourage people from supporting the Affordable Care Act.
While not every state has released final rates for the companies involved in their respective health exchanges, Sebelius claims that the Department of Health and Human Services is ready to open the enrollment period and does not anticipate any delays. The enrollment period begins on October 1, 2013 for coverage taking effect on January 1, 2014.
However, many states have not yet released insurance rates for 2014, and do not anticipate doing so until September. Sebelius thinks this offers consumers ample time to make informed decisions about which health insurance provider they would like to use. However, some people may disagree. Instead of allowing consumers the opportunity to start looking for appropriate and affordable coverage now, the failure to release rates has consumers in a holding pattern.
Sebelius believes that efforts by conservatives opposed to the Affordable Care Act to deter people from enrolling will be unsuccessful. She believes that the Health and Human Services campaign to encourage all Americans ( and especially the younger generation) to purchase insurance coverage will trump any efforts made by anti-ACA groups.
There is so much information about the Affordable Care Act, much of it vague and confusing, it is easy for both pro- and anti-ACA groups to skew the data in favor of their respective sides. This is disconcerting at best for Americans who want to make the right choices but feel like they have no solid information on which to base their decisions. Others may be under the impression that health care insurance decisions are not especially important, and believe that the new regulations being put into place will have little or no effect on them.
However, the Affordable Care Act will absolutely have an effect on consumers, whether they want to believe it or not. Here are some of the facts that will make an impact on every person in the country.
- The Affordable Care Act carries a legal requirement to purchase health insurance. This means that every individual who chooses not to participate in the state-run health exchanges or purchase other private insurance policies will have a fine imposed upon them.
- The insurance rates that have already been released in some states show a dramatic increase in premiums. In some states like Georgia, the rates have increased by nearly 200 percent. If this trend continues through the remaining states, this could make the Affordable Care Act absolutely unaffordable for the majority of Americans.
- Federal tax subsidies or tax credits will be available to help some consumers offset or reduce the cost of their insurance premiums. However, for most middle-class people, the tax credit will not be enough to cover the annual premium amount. In addition, a tax credit at the end of the year does not resolve the problem of how to pay for the premiums themselves during the year.
- As the Federal mandates stand right now, insurance premiums for young, healthy individuals will be used to subsidize the premiums of older individuals or those who are already ill. This will place a financial burden on the people who are least likely to be able to afford costly insurance premiums: college students, young couples just starting out, and young families.
Kathleen Sebelius has admitted that the target group for the Department of Health and Human Services is the younger generation. She criticized conservative groups making an equal effort to discourage young and healthy individuals from taking part in the Affordable Care Act. She pointed out that a major illness or accident could leave a young adult with lifelong medical bills and facing potential bankruptcy. While this is true, she does not mention that the same thing applies to all Americans, whether they are insured or not. Many Americans are already in a precarious financial position due to the problems with the economy. Being forced to purchase health insurance can put people in the position of having to choose whether to purchase insurance or pay their rent. Sebelius claims that the rates that have been released are affordable, and assumes that the health exchange rates that have not been released will also be similarly affordable.
As the enrollment period for the mandated health insurance looms closer, Kathleen Sebelius may well be surprised at how few enrollees they have. The rest of America, however, will not be surprised in the least.
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