LAKE MACBRIDE— The folks at the insurance exchange caught me in the barn yard, and we had a conversation about the challenges of not knowing what my 2014 income will be. The operator said, “we didn’t anticipate that people wouldn’t know how much they would earn in 2014.” She said they were working on the software to enable us to revise our application and someone would call me back when it was fixed. It has been a couple of weeks since that conversation, so we are in a holding pattern.
The impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on most people I know is nil, mostly because they already have a health insurance policy that complies with the ACA. The requirement to get health insurance is vaguely understood, and there have been zero times someone has talked about the financial penalties for not having insurance. There has been no impetus for people to sign up for a policy any different from before the open enrollment period began Oct. 1.
There is a fee for not having health insurance, and it ranges from $95 or one percent of income up to the cost of buying a specific plan (whichever is higher) in 2014, up to $695 or 2.5 percent of income in 2016. People who pay a fee will also be required to pay the entire cost of their health care. What isn’t clear is how emergency rooms will deal with the group of patients who show up at their doors for treatment without insurance— something else people are not talking about.
What we know is the Dec. 15 deadline to change policies for Jan. 1 will be here soon, and action will be required. The easy decision would be to keep our current health insurance policy. That postpones things for a year, providing time for the bugs to work out of the system. It’s our default position.
When the exchange calls me back, I’ll re-do our application, which will finalize eligibility and costs, and enable us to make a decision to change or hold our policy for another year. Until then, we watch, learn and wait.