Editor’s Dose: An important update on the Affordable Care Act

Like an afternoon soap opera we love to hate, we just can’t seem to stop watching the drama unfold in relation to the Affordable Care Act.  Whether you’re in favor or opposed to the ACA (commonly known as ObamaCare), I think we can all agree that it’s important to stay informed and remember that whether you need health insurance or not, the new law affects all of us.

Here’s a reminder of how— in theory— the ACA is supposed to make healthcare plans more affordable for everyone.  In the following hypothetical example, let’s just say you are a married woman, age 29, and your husband is 33.  Neither of you smoke or have any serious or chronic medical conditions.  You have two children, ages four and seven.  Both of them are also relatively healthy— except for the occasional cold or ear infection your toddler brings home from pre-school.  Now consider your next door neighbor, who is 65, had a minor heart attack at age 52, and has diabetes.  While you and your family hardly ever need to go to the doctor (thank the Lord), your neighbor is in need of routine medical care, several prescriptions, and insulin to help regulate his blood sugar levels.  It costs insurance companies much more to provide care for your neighbor than it does for your family.  So here is where the ACA comes in.  If all of the families like yours (the relatively healthy ones, especially) who don’t have health insurance suddenly do have a plan that they pay for every month, then people who need regular medical attention (and either could not switch before because they had a pre-existing condition or pay exorbitant amounts for private health insurance) will be able to get medical care at a more reasonable cost.  In theory, if everyone gets insurance, then both the healthy and medically-needy will be able to get better rates.  In short— if everyone puts money into the health insurance pot, then everyone pays a lesser amount.  That’s the theory, anyway.  We have yet to see if it’s working.

As far as enrollment for Florida, it’s estimated that 140,000 residents enrolled in December, which is much higher than the whopping 18,000 new enrollees from October and November combined.  Of these new sign-ups, approximately 20 percent fall into the highly coveted 18 to 34-year-old demographic (remember, the healthy ones who are supposed to help offset costs for consumers who are older or need more care).  Does that mean that younger consumers are opting to not enroll and instead pay the tax for not getting health insurance?  The answer: It’s still too early to tell.  The total number for sign-ups up to the end of 2013 was 2.2 million, which is lower than initially projected.

In other news, Florida currently leads the other 29 states who are depending on the government-run website— www.Healthcare.gov— in order to enroll its citizens.  Some states opted to create their own online marketplace for enrollment (instead of using the federal one above), and I don’t have the latest numbers on how their new sign-ups compare with ours— but I do know this: in order for the plan to work, everyone must put money into the healthcare pot, especially the 18-34 year age group.  The Obama Administration hopes that the national percentage for this age group will be 40 percent, and they expect that enrollment numbers will increase as the deadline approaches.  The final deadline for enrollment, in case you don’t already know, is March 31, 2014.  For more information about plans and how to enroll, you can go to www.HealthCare.gov.

Celeste Jo Walls, Editor

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