Healthcare Reform: What Does it All Mean?

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LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC) – With another phase of healthcare reform measures coming in the fall, it’s still unclear for some what the Affordable Care Act means for them.

In an Insurancequotes.com survey, of the more than 45 million Americans that are uninsured, 64 percent of them are uncertain if they will buy insurance by the January 1, 2014 deadline. The survey also found fewer than half of Americans thought the Affordable Care Act would benefit them.

“Even though the new health care law has been hotly debated for years, a shocking number of Americans are still unsure how it will affect them,” said Laura Adams, a senior insurance analyst for InsuranceQuotes.com.

“Uninformed consumers risk missing key deadlines; the health exchanges will begin accepting applications in fewer than four months.”

So what exactly are the deadlines that families and individuals have to worry about? If still uninsured by January 1, 2014, individuals can face a fine f $95 but if they remain uninsured the fine will grow as high as 2.5 percent of their income.

Those that are uninsured and want to avoid this penalty will have the option to enroll in a healthcare exchange provided by the state.

These exchanges are marketplaces where insurance providers post their most cost effective plans, and individuals can figure out what plan works best for them and to see if they qualify for tax credits. To find your states healthcare exchange, click here.

Enrollment for these programs begin Oct. 1 and close March 31.

Tax credits are also another point of confusion. In fact, those most likely to receive the credit were the most confused about it.

In the same survey, 68 percent of those making less than $30,000 a year said they didn’t know if they would receive a credit.

The tax credit was designed to subsidize the cost of health insurance. The amount of money credited to your insurance plan is determined by income; however, individuals won’t have to wait until the end of the year to receive the money.

Once open enrollment begins, families and individuals will be able to apply for the tax credit as part of their enrollment process.

An individual will put in their income and will be shown the amount of money they will receive for insurance. They will then have the option of how much of that money they want to send directly to the insurance company, meaning their out-of-pocket cost is reduced immediately.

The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange has released the names of 13 of the insurance companies participating in the exchange, including major companies like Aetna, CareFirst and United Healthcare. While open enrollment doesn’t begin for another five months, a statewide call center is planned to open in August to field questions for those still trying to decide.

Maryland Health Benefit Exchange Executive Director Rebecca Pearce says that while they might not enroll everyone of the 750,000 uninsured Maryland residents, they hope to drastically reduce the number.

“The uninsured rate is about 13% of the Maryland population today,” said Pearce. “By insuring more people through Maryland Health Connection we hope to decrease that to 6.5%.”

In D.C., much the same progress is being made, but there has been a recent hiccup in the number of options the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority is hoping to provide. CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the District’s leading healthcare provider, stated in a filing that it would only be offering eight of its original 62 plans.

In a report by WNEW’s Karen Adams, D.C.’s Insurance Commissioner William White says they spoke with CareFirst and it may be a technical issue.

“They were cautiously optimistic that whatever the concerns are can be addressed by CareFirst,” says White. “The intent overall for CareFirst for both the individual and group market that whatever is offered on the exchange is offered off the exchange.”

For now, White believes this will all be resolved by October and D.C. residents will have plenty of options to choose from. While families and individuals still have five months to decide, it doesn’t hurt to start weighing options now.

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