by: Leah Oathout/Production Manager
Some big changes are going to happen at the beginning of 2014, which need to be addressed now rather than later. Purchasing health insurance as required by the Affordable Care Act is one such issue. Despite all the media drama, getting coverage at an affordable price will be supposedly easier than many might think.
The Affordable Care Act, pushed through by the Obama administration in early 2010, is designed to provide the entire nation with health insurance that is affordable. Under the new laws, no one may be turned down or charged extra because of preexisting illness. According to a pamphlet put out by healthcareform.illinois.gov, “Premiums will only be allowed to vary based on age, tobacco use, geographic area, and family size.”
The state of Illinois has opted to an online insurance “shopping center” called the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace. This website will compile and compare suggested coverage for the applicant to choose from, all of which must “cover…essential health benefits, including hospitalization, doctor visits, and prescription medicine.” Other options, such as chiropractic or physical therapy can be added to find the perfect fit for coverage and cost.
“This [Marketplace] is designed to give more options to people,” explained Misti Lewis, an insurance counselor for Sarah Bush Lincoln Hospital and its affiliates, at an informational meeting on Oct. 17.
While the Marketplace is supposed to make purchasing insurance simple, it might be confusing at first. The best place to start is GetCoveredIllinois.com. The applicant will have to answer several screening questions to determine if they should be directed to Medicare’s ABE website or to the Marketplace. Once there, applicants will create an account, input information such as their Social Security Numbers, employers, income and tax information, with which it determines eligibility for extra aid from the government (Medicaid or tax refunds) and then provide plans for the applicant to choose from.
While government assistance sounds excellent news for college students who are independent from their parents, this also poses a potential problem. It is estimated that nearly 700,000 individuals and families will qualify for Medicaid assistance.
“Illinois can’t even pay for Medicare,” Lake Land LPN Sharon Uphoff pointed out. “How are we going to absorb all those people? The concept of everyone being insured is great, but the reality is what I’m worried about.”
She brings up an excellent point. While those who already have insurance are not required to purchase new plans, it may be less expensive to do so as private insurance companies may have to increase their premiums to cover loss of cliental.
However, as anyone who has already tried to purchase insurance probably knows, the websites are working as smoothly as the Obama administration could have hoped. Media around the nation have cited incrediably slow loading times, inaccurate information and overall difficulty of use. While the Democrates have asked for people to be patient, these delays pose a serious threat to the peoples’ opinion of the program.
Whether or not the technical problems are remedied, for those that do not have insurance, time is of the essence. The enrollment period for insurance purchase via the Marketplace is Oct. 1 through March 31, though Lewis highly suggests enrolling before Dec. 15 because coverage will begin Jan. 1 of 2014. There has been talk of an extended deadline due to the website problems.
Over the next few months, it will become clearer as to how the ACA will change the way Americans are insured and what specific effects these laws will have on the college. Look for more on this topic on the Navigator website in early November.