Well, on that day individuals and small businesses could begin to buy qualified health benefit plans in the new insurance marketplace called exchanges. Thirty-six states set up their own exchanges. The remainder, including Michigan, elected not to. As a Michigan resident, you access this new insurance marketplace though the federal exchange, typically via the website called HealthCare.gov.
Since only 5.7 percent of American are in private, non-group health plans, Obama may have figured this part of the rollout would not strain his newly established website (this one website, to serve 14 states, cost between $677 million and $1 billion; the remaining 36 states were given $4.4 billion to split up for creating their own websites). Obama was wrong. HealthCare.gov has been plagued by myriad technical problems including its backend; meaning that even if one successfully navigates the sign-up process, as of this writing, you stand a 35 percent chance that you’re not actually covered.
You can either have faith that the government will get this fixed, or you can worry that the problem will get worse as millions more Americans are compelled to access the website. Another problem is that Obama repeatedly promised that no one would lose his or her health insurance plan if he or she liked it, but the individual and small business health insurance market is characterized by a great many policies designed to be affordable through high deductibles and limited benefits. Obamacare sweeps away those insurance policies. According to NBC News, way back in July 2010, an internal government report estimated that “40 to 67 percent of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them.”
Now you know what all the fuss has been about, but if you’re among the vast majority of Americans who get their health insurance through your employer, why worry? You have plenty of reason to worry – according to a memorandum available for viewing right on Obama’s healthcare website, more than 50 percent, and up to 66 percent, of employees with employer-provided health insurance will be compelled to move to a more expensive plan. The giant consulting firm Hewitt is more pessimistic, estimating 90 percent of current employer plans will be illegal by the end of 2014. Prestigious consulting firms Deloitte and McKinsey & Co. found that between 10 to 30 percent of employers “definitely or probably” will stop offering health insurance as a benefit under the new laws. If you work for one of those companies in Michigan, you’ll either have to find a new employer who offers health insurance, or you’ll have to log onto the federal health exchange website.
Now that you know Obamacare is likely to affect you, next time, let’s look at what health insurance is going to look like in the near future, and what it’s likely to cost you.
Editor’s Note: This is the second of a weekly six-part series digging into the Affordable Care Act. Doolittle is a local writer, a former stockbroker and insurance salesman, and has a degree in business administration. He said that while this series does include some opinion – which may or may not be the opinion of the Tribune – he can back it all up with facts and hopes to be able to help people understand a very complicated Act and what it means to them.