10 things that explain the Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act is one of the most polarizing and least understood laws in the nation. This health care initiative was the main source of contention between Republicans and Democrats when it came to passing this year’s fiscal budget and that ultimately led to the longest government shutdown in the nation’s history. We may understand some of it — namely that all Americans will have to get health insurance in some way, we think — but many of us don’t really know much else about the law.
Here are 10 simple things that explain the Affordable Care Act and what it means for Americans.
ACA, Obamacare: Tom-ay-to, Tom-ah-to
Obamacare is the Affordable Care Act, and the Affordable Care Act is Obamacare. It sounds rudimentary but in the midst of the government craziness, on his talk show, “Jimmy Kimmel Live,’’ host Jimmy Kimmel conducted a social experiment by asking random people on the street whether they support Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act.
Watch Kimmel’s segment
to see how they answered that question.
The Commonwealth led the way
The Massachusetts health care reform law became the model that the Democrats used to draft the federal version of the bill, which they called the Affordable Care Act. Or Obamacare. See previous page.
The current health reform initiative in Massachusetts, informally known as Romneycare, was signed into state law in 2006 by Governor Mitt Romney. Because Massachusetts already has a similar initiative in place, many residents of the Commonwealth will feel little to no difference when the national health care reform law gets into full swing.
The ACA helps some people. But who exactly?
It’s impossible to create a bill that can benefit everyone, and the Affordable Care Act is no exception. However, those who were previously uninsured or underinsured may benefit the most from the the law. The insurance program set up under the initiative is designed to provide subsidized health coverage for small business owners, those who may already have health insurance but who are typically hit with massive co-pays, or those without insurance because it is not provided by their employer. Also, those previously denied coverage because of a pre-existing health condition such as a genetic disorder or a chronic condition like diabetes may now be insured.
The ACA won’t help some people. But who exactly?
While the Affordable Care Act is a federal law, the details of how it’s implemented are pretty much left up to states. At least 5 million Americans won’t benefit a bit from the Affordable Care Act, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. That’s because they fall under a “coverage gap,’’ meaning that they live in states that do not have expanded Medicaid coverage, they make too much money to qualify for federally sponsored insurance, or they’re not old enough to qualify for Medicare yet.
The ACA has its problems
So, how can a bill that has the potential to help tens of millions of Americans get more affordable health care cause a large enough scuffle to shut the government down?
For one, with the federal government in overwhelming debt and all of the additional costs that come with implementing the initiative, many who oppose the bill, especially Republicans, wonder how the government will be able to pay for it all.
One way: Pay more in federal taxes. Also, many fear that small businesses will have to shell out more money to cover their employees’ health care costs or hire more part-time workers instead of full-time ones to go around the mandate, both of which opposers to the law argue could hurt the economy.
ICYMI: The ACA caused the government shutdown
The government shutdown may have seemed like a bitter budget battle, and it was. But the heart of the blitzkreig was actually the Affordable Care Act. Some Republicans originally demanded scrapping President Obama’s health care reform law from the proposed budget. The Republicans did achieve one change: a tighter income verification procedure that would prevent some applicants from scamming the system to get federal subsidies to purchase health insurance.
Besides that, Obamacare is still moving full-speed ahead.
If you have health insurance through work, the next 3 pages don’t apply to you
As long as you have health insurance of any kind, including through work, you will not be penalized. The penalty only applies to individuals with no health care coverage. However, the Affordable Care Act does allow for those who have limited insurance plans with their employer to get subsidized coverage through the federal exchange program. But for a majority of Americans, buying a plan when one is offered through work won’t make sense.
Signing up for health insurance is mandatory. Or else.
Much like the Massachusetts health reform law, most uninsured Americans could be fined if they don’t buy insurance — $95 per adult and $47.50 per child, to be exact.
That fine applies to most Americans, not all. For example, the Affordable Care Act exempts Native Americans from paying a penalty if they opt out of buying health insurance. That’s because they are already guaranteed free federally supported health care.
Also, low income families near the poverty line would be exempt from the penalty, or if the insurance premium adds up to more than 8 percent of your adjusted gross income.
You can sign up for Obamacare now
The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, long before the latest government shutdown. Regardless of the shutdown status or the state of our fiscal health, Americans can still enroll for the insurance program set up by the law through its own designated federal website, Healthcare.gov, which launched in October.
The federal government has not yet released enrollment figures. But some private health care analysts estimate that less than 1 percent of those who have tried to register have actually enrolled. Why the seemingly slow start? Perhaps it will take time to gain some traction, some experts say. Another reason could be that the website has been experiencing quite a few glitches.
About that website glitch…
So now that you know the basics, you may be thinking, “Hey, let me check this thing out for myself.’’
Have at it.
Oh, wait. And wait, and wait. Literally. With the site’s traffic bottleneck, you might find a shorter wait time at the DMV. And with all the technical glitches detected so far, you should get a medal if you get through it successfully. The website was designed to help people shop, compare, and enroll in the best and most affordable health insurance option for them. In short, it hasn’t been working so well.
Don’t worry, President Obama knows all about it. In fact, he likened the rough start to when Apple unveiled its new operating system.
“Just a couple of weeks ago, Apple rolled out a new mobile operating system, and within days, they found a glitch, so they fixed it. I don’t remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads or threatening to shut down the company if they didn’t,’’ he said.