How is Obamacare implementation going?

This will be the first time the majority of the uninsured population has ever purchased health insurance. Helping consumers to understand the process of qualifying for premium tax credits/cost sharing and to actually purchase health insurance on the online health insurance marketplaces will clearly be one of the biggest challenges to successfully implementing Obamacare.

Employers that currently offer health insurance -- and their employees -- will most definitely see premiums increase in 2014. The premium increases will be partly due to fees associated with implementing health care reform. Increased health insurance premiums will continue to be a challenge for both employers and their employees.

There have been several delays in how Obamacare is being implemented. How is the one-year delay regarding the employer mandate likely to affect consumers?

This is an expensive delay. Estimates are that this particular delay may cost the American taxpayers over $10 billion.

The one-year postponement in the shared responsibility penalties (employer mandate) applies to employers who average 50 or more full-time employees (or full-time employee equivalents), and either they do not offer health insurance coverage to their full-time employees (employed an average of 30 hours per week), or the coverage offered does not meet government requirements.

An overwhelming number of the employers affected by this delay -- large employers with 50 or more full-time employees -- already provide health insurance. Employees with employer-provided health insurance will not see an impact from the employer-mandate delay.

However, some employers currently offering health insurance may choose not to continue health insurance coverage in 2014 regardless of the postponement in the employer mandate because of the increased costs and reporting requirements associated with health care reform.

Employees working for large employers that don't offer health insurance in 2014 to either full-time or part-time employees will be eligible to begin purchasing health insurance as early as Oct. 1, 2013, on the health insurance marketplace/exchanges, with coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2014, and (they) may qualify for premium tax credits.

What about the one-year delay on placing caps on how much a person may have to pay out of pocket for care? How will this affect consumers?

One of the consumer protection pieces of Obamacare that was scheduled to be implemented in 2014, the annual limit on out-of-pocket maximums, has now been delayed until 2015 for group health plans offered by certain insurers and employers -- and thus, the consumers -- covered by these plans.

This one-year postponement does not apply to individual policies sold in the health insurance marketplaces. The annual limits on out-of-pocket costs that insured consumers must pay -- deductibles, coinsurance and co-payments -- were set to $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for families in 2014.

Delaying this section of Obamacare disproportionately affects those in most need of health care reform -- consumers with chronic illnesses, such as cancer and diabetes, who currently spend more than these annual limits for treatment and prescription drugs.


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