My father was one of the millions of Americans who were dropped by their health insurance provider. He and his wife work for themselves, so they’ve carried an expensive individual policy. In November of last year, he received notice that his policy was going to be dropped, giving him until December 31st to find a new one or upgrade to a different policy within the same insurance company. Around the same time, my husband lost his job. Since I am self-employed, that meant that we were suddenly in the market for new healthcare as well, trying to figure out what we were supposed to do next.
We are fortunate in that Paul served in the Navy, so we were able to call USAA. Even more fortunate was that we found a health insurance rep with them who knew the ins and outs of the healthcare law and the changes to come. He was able to estimate the subsidy we were eligible for on the Healthcare Marketplace versus the cost of us going through USAA so that we could compare pricing at a time when we were very price-conscious. He also briefly explained the metallic plans, and how we would be able to keep our plan through them until December of 2014, at which point we would have to convert to a metallic-grade plan.
But guess what? No matter how well-versed this man was, or how well he knew the new healthcare law, it’s been constantly changing. The conversation we had just last November is probably not very relevant right now.
For our sake, and your sake, I’d like to highlight several key changes that have been made to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, over the last year. We all need to keep up with this, and to be honest, it’s a bit confusing with changing deadlines, changing priorities, changing benefits, etc.
Obamacare Deadline Extended
The deadline for Obamacare open enrollment to sign up for health insurance was originally scheduled for today, March 31, 2014. However, as long as you start the process today and check the “special enrollment” box, you’ll be able to finish your enrollment later on a date to be determined.
Changes that Have Been Made to Obamacare
Additional changes to Obamacare include:
- Two-Year Hardship Exemption to those Who Lost Health Insurance: My father was quite upset about losing his health insurance plan. Losing your plan at a time when so much is changing in healthcare leaves you feeling quite vulnerable–I would know. Adding insult to injury is the fact that even if you lost your healthcare coverage through no fault of your own, you have to find a new plan or else be penalized through the Individual Mandate. Just recently, this deadline was extended for two more years to people who lost their coverage. So for two more years, people can either reapply for the plans they were taken off of (though it’s up to the insurance companies whether or not they still want to offer plans that are not compliant with the new law), they can get what’s known as a catastrophic plan, or they can forego health insurance all together. If this fits your situation, then you have to fill out a form in order to have this exemption (form/information pending).
- Delayed Employer Mandate: Under the Affordable Care Act, employers with more than 50 full-time employees are mandated to offer health insurance. Otherwise, they will have to pay a $2,000 penalty per employee. There is also a substantial reporting requirement attached to this. Larger businesses generally carry health insurance for their employees, so this mandate was specifically for smaller businesses and start-up companies. This penalty has now been delayed until January 2015.
- Delayed Small Business Federal Exchange: The availability of the online small business exchange marketplace, also known as the SHOP exchange, is delayed until December 2014 at the earliest. Until this marketplace website is ready, small employers have to continue to apply through an agent, broker or directly through an insurer to enroll in compliant federal marketplace plans.
- Rules for Equal Coverage Offered by Employers Delayed: Some employers offer their top executives better health care plans and/or coverage than the rest of the employees. With the Affordable Health Care Act, this is prohibited, mainly because the government provides a substantial tax break for employer-sponsored insurance and believes that there needs to be fairness and equality in these subsidized plans. Except that the implementation and rules of how this is going to work have been delayed.
- Extended Coverage of TRICARE for Adult Children: TRICARE, the military’s health insurance, is now covering adult children up to the age of 26 in certain circumstances instead of 21 (which was originally in the law).
Did you lose your health insurance recently? How was your experience finding a new plan?