If there was ever a less understood piece of legislation than the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or “Obamacare”), it’s lost to memory. In the lead-up to the bill, the passage of the legislation and the years following before implementation, the PPACA has been a hotly contested law that some said would reduce health insurance premiums and others claim would drive premiums up for all Americans. There have been accusations of “death panels” and predictions of enormous rises in the national deficit.
Spreading hysteria was easy to do in previous years: the implementation of the legislation was a long way off, and most Americans hadn’t heard any specifics on how the law will help them. As we get ever closer to Oct. 1, when Americans can begin shopping for health insurance in state- and federally-run “exchanges,” here’s to hoping that the misinformation can be quelled and that uninsured citizens can reap the benefits of the legislation.
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Though it’s still too early to predict exactly how much the PPACA will save those hoping to buy insurance – not enough participating companies have published their rates yet – there is enough data available to get a small snapshot, according to a recent white paper published by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
It’s important to note that there will be dual rates involved in each plan: the subsidized version and the unsubsidized version. Americans will be eligible for federal tax credits toward their insurance if they have family incomes that are one to four times the federal poverty level (about $24,000 to $94,000 for a family of four, depending on region), and they may qualify for tax credits that will lower the cost of coverage through reduced premiums and, in some cases, also be eligible for subsidies to reduce their out of pocket costs. Plans will vary in cost depending on the enrollee’s age (but not gender) and income. There will also be multiple “tiers” of coverage offered – catastrophic, bronze, silver, gold and platinum. The less out of pocket cost, the higher the premium, and vice versa.
As to specific numbers, the lowest cost silver exchange plans available range in cost for a 40-year-old from $194 per month in Portland, Ore., to $395 per month for a 40-year-old in Burlington, Vt., before tax credits. While premiums will vary greatly by region, the Kaiser report concludes that premiums will be lower than expected.
Open enrollment in the exchanges begins Oct. 1, 2013, for coverage starting Jan. 1, 2014. Complete premium information for all states will soon become available on Web sites for each exchange. The websites and the exchange call centers will be able to cite the different plans available and the unsubsidized costs, and offer callers help in determining whether they are eligible for subsidies and tax credits.
Edited by Alisen Downey