Former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr once famously observed, "Time takes time." While the fab four's official timekeeper wasn't talking specifically about health insurance as far as I know, his sage observation remains a timely one as we witness the gradual unfolding of health care reform.
The Affordable Care Act is now just six months away from the historic first open enrollment period of the new federal-state health exchanges it created to provide a simplified, one-stop online source for affordable health insurance for individuals and small businesses. It is expected that as many as 30 million Americans will obtain health insurance, many for the first time, through these exchanges, which will also serve as a conduit to federal health care subsidies for income-qualified applicants.
The individual mandate portion of the law, of course, requires all nonexempt Americans to obtain health insurance or face a penalty on their federal income tax.
But many are in the dark
Unfortunately, a health tracking poll done in April by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 4 in 10 of us (42 percent) still don't know that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. Why? Well, 12 percent think Congress repealed it, 7 percent think the Supreme Court overturned it, and the other 23 percent are just plain confused about it. And because our species tends to be change-averse, more of us (40 percent) have an unfavorable rather than a favorable view (35 percent) of the law just now.
None of which comes as a complete surprise. Health care reform is a huge change that's been surrounded by a lot of noise and will take, yes, some time for people to become comfortable with it. President Barack Obama acknowledged as much in a press conference last week, calling health care reform "a big undertaking" with many "glitches and bumps" ahead.
A simpler sign-up form
The solution to one of those glitches also made headlines last week when the administration brought forth a simplified, three-page redraft of its initial 21-page application for health insurance benefits under the law. Critics likened the first draft to filling out the federal income tax long form. The application will make its official debut online at every state exchange Oct. 1 for health insurance coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
My take? Most Americans haven't digested health care reform because it's not likely to affect them initially, if at all. That's because they now have health insurance through their employer or are covered under one of the federal or federal/state programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB), the Indian Health Service (IHS), etc.
The knowledge level may increase as we all become more familiar with the mechanics of the state exchanges and how the new marketplace compares to obtaining employer-based health plans and other options.
But as Ringo observed, that's gonna take some time.
Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus
Subscribe to Bankrate newsletters today!
Jay MacDonald is a Bankrate contributing editor and co-author of "Future Millionaires' Guidebook," an e-book by Bankrate editors and reporters.