Saturday, December 7, 2013

ACA update: Out with the Old, In with the New

By Emily McKinley, Health Information Specialist

As the year is coming to its end, the debate centering on the Affordable Care Act is charging full-steam ahead. As with any change, this one is hard, and depending upon each consumer’s seat, the reasons vary widely.

Some consumers are discouraged by the inaccessibility of www.healthcare.gov and are anxiously awaiting an opportunity to submit applications and view their coverage options. Each day Family Voices is receiving reports that the website is running more smoothly, and meanwhile more consumers are accessing the information they need. 
Consumers may also submit an application over the phone by calling 1-800-318-2596, via mail, or in-person. To find an in-person assister, visit LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov
Be sure to be aware of any deadlines if you choose a mail in option.

Some consumers have had previous coverage cancelled and are uncertain about what changes will bring for them. President Obama announced in November that policies that were set to be cancelled because they did not fully conform to the legislation may be continued through 2014 in order to ease transition woes and respond to consumer frustrations regarding the application and implementation process. Some insurers have decided to continue those policies while others have continued on the course of phasing those policies out. Please note, if you stay with a policy that does not conform to the legislation, you will not be afforded the full rights and protections of the ACA.

Other consumers may find it difficult to understand how the changes may benefit them. In this vein, it is important to remember that the consumer rights and protections stipulated by the law will be implemented in full on January 1, 2014, for all applicable plans. In other words, many consumers have not yet had the opportunity to see how the legislation was intended to work for the consumer. Beginning January 1, individuals will no longer be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions, preventative care will be covered without costs in addition to premiums, essential health benefits will be covered, lifetime and annual coverage limits will be eliminated, and other protections will be effective. For some consumers, especially those who are not frequent-clinic-goers, it may take months, even years, to fully realize the intended benefits sand protections of the act.

Finally, other consumers feel they are caught in a time crunch. The good news is this: deadlines have been extended. Pre-existing condition plans, such as ICHIA, have been extended to give consumers additional time to transfer to Marketplace plans. Furthermore, for coverage effective January 1, applications may be submitted as late as December 23, and premiums paid as late as December 31. Also, the open enrollment period ends March 31. In other words, if you currently have insurance that will continue into 2014, you have until the end of March to purchase a Marketplace plan, if you choose to participate this year.

In a season of busyness, take a breath, bid farewell to the old and welcome the new. We’ll have plenty of time to work out the kinks next year.

For more information about the Affordable Care Act or for other assistance, please contact Family Voices at 317.944.8982 or info@fvindiana.org. You may also visit our website: www.fvindiana.org

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