What is Obamacare?
This video from the Kaiser Family Foundation explains what health care reform, aka the Affordable Care Act, does, and how it works.
Not all the explanations are perfect. For example, it still isn’t entirely clear to me how insurance in the exchanges differs from insurance you buy directly from the insurance company itself. Will the exchange plans only be offered via the exchanges? I think so. The video notes that you’ll only be able to buy the exchange plans during certain open periods each year, which is intended to stop people from waiting until they get sick until they buy insurance. Though, if they got sick without insurance (and paid an annual penalty instead), or bought a low-quality plan, I’m pretty sure they’d still be able to buy a better plan once the open period reopened, even if they were already sick.
And my insurance company told me the other day that while you could just buy a lousy insurance plan off-exchange, meaning go to your insurer directly, and then just wait until you get some catastrophic illness and up your plan, you still might have to wait until the next month for your plan to kick in. That means several weeks without treatment. And in some cases, like a car accident or a heart attack, you can’t really go several weeks without treatment.
Keep in mind that under pre-Obamacare law, you couldn’t buy a better plan, or probably any plan, after you got sick. And if they did let you buy it, it would be awfully expensive. Now, they have to treat you just like everyone else your age buying a new plan. You pay the same premium as everyone else your age.
Another question I have: What if you work for a company, but choose not to use the company’s health plan because it’s so lousy, and you go and buy insurance on your own. Can you then buy into the health care exchanges? Or is this not allowed, since everyone might then leave their employer and buy in the exchanges (which is kind of silly, because if the plans are that good, we should let people leave and join them, and if the plans are as bad as the GOP claims, no one would want to leave their employer’s coverage and opt for the exchange coverage instead).
Of course, it would be rather ironic if the exchanges were so good that people with private employers want to move over to them.
I’ve got a call into HHS, to talk through my Obamacare questions with an expert there. If you have any questions you’d like me to ask them, post them in the comments below.