Affordable Care Act exchanges open Tuesday
Health care bill takes step in implementation process
Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 01:10
With the opening of the Healthcare Insurance Exchange, Tuesday marks the next major step in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”
Laura Dague, assistant professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, said the exchange will provide citizens with an online marketplace of health care plans from private insurers that meet the new minimum federal requirements.
Dague said uninsured people will be able to go on the marketplace website and both look for an insurance plan and see if they are eligible for a subsidy, and if so, how much it would be.
To aid in this process, Dague said insurance companies participating in the marketplace are required to clarify their plan to customers by putting forward a sheet that clearly outlines what the plan offers.
“The marketplace is where you can go if you do not currently have insurance and you want to look for a policy,” Dague said. “If you already have insurance through your parents or your job, you don’t need to make any changes. If you are uninsured, you are going to have to look at whether you want to go ahead and buy insurance or whether you want to pay the [penalties], which are relatively small next year but start to go up a little more over time.”
Penalty payments will begin January 2014 and will start at $95 per adult or 1 percent of adjusted family income depending on which sum is greater. By January 2016, the penalties for being uninsured will be up to $2,085 per family or 2.5 percent of income depending on which is greater.
The marketplace is one of four main initiatives that come with the Affordable Care Act, Dauge said. The other initiatives include a provision to ensure health care plans cover certain preventative health measures such as contraception, mammograms and immunizations for children; provisions to enable people under the age of 26 to be on their parent’s insurance; and provisions to require that insurance companies do not deny health care because of pre-existing conditions.
Rep. Bill Flores of District 17 said Republicans in Congress will continue to attempt to put an end to the Affordable Care Act as the American people are faced with what he said would be damaging local and national ramifications resulting from the act.
“We are doing our best to repeal the act and to replace it with market-oriented health care reforms,” Flores said. “We’ve made 40-plus attempts to repeal it and delay it and take parts of it apart and again try to get ourselves in a position where we can replace it with something better.”
Most recently, Republicans in the House of Representatives have attempted to thwart the Affordable Care Act by including a provision to delay it by one year with the current federal spending bill before sending it to the Senate for approval.
On the other side of the spectrum is Beto O’Rourke, Democratic representative from Texas’ District 16. In a press release explaining his decision to vote against the Republican version of the spending bill because of the delay of the Affordable Care Act that would result, O’Rourke said Republicans are compromising the system with their actions.
“Using government solvency as leverage to achieve other political aims puts at risk our ability to meet our obligations and function as a country,” O’Rourke said.
Dague said from a purely economic standpoint, the move by Republicans is irresponsible.
“I think that is not a good idea to threaten the whole economy over one policy that has been legally passed and voted on multiple times,” Dague said. “And I think many economists share that opinion regardless of how they feel about the particular policy in question.”
But Flores said his actions to replace the Affordable Care Act with a plan that doesn’t drive up costs is in line with what he believes his constituents want. He said part of his understanding of what constituents want comes from small business employers in Bryan-College Station who have contacted him over the past couple of months and informed him of their prospective business changes.
“In the past, they’ve always been happy to provide insurance and health care coverage to their employees,” Flores said. “And what they are telling me now is because of the high cost of health care coverage, they are thinking about doing a number of things.”
Flores said the requirements of the Affordable Care Act have already resulted in an increase in premiums, which has forced businesses in Bryan-College Station and across the nation to make difficult sacrifices.
Flores said employers were thinking of reducing their number of full-time employees to below 50 so the Affordable Care Act is not applicable to them, reducing the hours their employees work to below 30 hours a week as that constitutes full-time under Affordable Care Act and abandoning health insurance plans in favor of asking employees to go into health
“It’s been a bad deal for employers and employees,” Flores said. “It looks like it’s going to get worse.”
Of the businesses that Flores heard from, he recalled a dry cleaning and laundry business that would have liked to open up at a new location but held back because the expansion would put them at over 50 employees, a business move that would drive costs up under the Affordable Care Act.
“Whereas three years ago they would have been inclined to make that expansion, now they’re holding back on that expansion,” Flores said. “That’s bad for them. That’s bad for potential employees who are going to