Despite the recent announcement that the requirement for employers to offer health insurance to their employees has been delayed, the federal and state governments are ramping up for the largest open enrollment period in history. Fueled by the mandate that almost every American have health insurance as of January 1, 2014, millions of previously uninsured Americans – and Americans that did not historically have access to affordable health coverage – will gain access to health insurance.
It has been reported that about 80% of Americans will be unaffected by the individual mandate because they are already covered by employer-sponsored insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or other insurance plans. Meanwhile, the federal and state governments have been extremely engaged in readying their infrastructures and policies for the massive changes soon to impact the other 20% of the nation. Alarmingly, the very consumers who have the most to gain from the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) changes remain ill informed about how their lives can be positively impacted within the next few months.
A recent survey from Enroll America a nonprofit organization focused on maximizing the number of uninsured Americans who enroll in health coverage – reveals that 78% of uninsured adults, and 80% of the Medicaid expansion population, are unaware of the new insurance options available to them beginning in 2014. Additionally, a recent Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation poll reveals that awareness of individual provisions in the law has declined since the (ACA) became law in March 2010. Compared to April 2010, fewer people know that the ACA creates the opportunity for anyone to get insurance, regardless of their health history; small businesses to be eligible for tax credits; states to expand their Medicaid programs; and uninsured Americans to get financial help to buy health coverage. Perhaps the most startling fact is that, as of April 2013, 42% of Americans are unsure if the Affordable Care Act is actually the law.
Outreach and education efforts are critical to ensuring that Americans have the information to evaluate their choices for continuing their employer sponsored health insurance or purchasing coverage though the health information marketplaces beginning in October 2013.
The federal government has revamped its HealthCare.gov website to further help Americans understand their options. Additionally, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation maintains a subsidy calculator on its website that can assist consumers in understanding their insurance options. The calculator estimates an individual’s 2014 premium subsidy if the individual is eligible for insurance through a marketplace.
These tools are great starting places for individuals who are unsure of the options available to them in 2014. We encourage you to spread the word so that no American goes uneducated about the variety of options available for health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
In our next post, we will discuss the individual mandate – what it is, how an individual can fulfill the requirements set forth by the ACA, and other related issues.