Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law in 2010, millions have benefited from its reforms. Over three million young adults have exercised the option to stay on their parents’ insurance plans. Women are no longer charged more simply because of their gender. And no American will ever be barred from buying insurance due to a pre-existing condition again.
Now the time has finally come for the 30 million Americans without insurance, over 100,000 of whom live in Virginia’s 8th District, to sign up for affordable, accessible health care under the ACA. This was one of the main thrusts of the law, to provide healthcare security to the millions in our society who completely lack it.
In addition to the uninsured, the self-employed, small business employees, and those currently purchasing plans on the individual market will now find purchasing affordable coverage as simple as creating a Facebook account. Eligible participants can create an account through HealthCare.gov, confirm coverage eligibility, and then pick the plan that is best for them and their families, with coverage becoming available on January 1.
Of course, changes in a law of this magnitude are not without their challenges. Technical glitches are sure to pop up in the coming days and weeks. Similar issues arose during the rollout of Medicare in the 1960s and the Part D prescription drug benefit in the mid-2000s. Both of these programs were successfully implemented, and today they stand as cornerstones in the U.S. health care safety net, consistently receiving high marks from participants.
Under the ACA, open enrollment nationwide will run from October 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014. A Department of Health and Human Service’s report recently found that individuals in Northern Virginia will have a total of 63 qualified health plans in our marketplace. Plans will be categorized as “gold,” “silver,” or “bronze,” designating the level of coverage provided by each plan, gold being the highest level of coverage. In Virginia, the average premium for the lowest-cost silver plan will be $323 and the lowest cost bronze plan will be $237 before tax credits. Young adults will also have the option of purchasing a “catastrophic” plan that will be low cost, designed for generally healthy people in the event of an emergency.
Affordability and accessibility aren’t the only priorities of the ACA, slowing the growth in healthcare costs is also a key design of the plan. Already, new federal rate review rules under the ACA require insurance companies to submit any proposed increase in health insurance premiums greater than 10 percent for federal approval. This provision was put in place in 2011 and helps to drive down costs, requiring insurance companies to maintain low overhead.
The ACA also requires insurance companies to devote 80 percent of consumers’ premium dollars to actual health care services, not administrative costs. Last year, to comply with the 80 percent threshold, companies lowered premium costs by $3.4 billion. Companies in violation returned an additional $500 million to consumers.
To learn more about the new ACA law, please visit www.healthcare.gov. Special “Navigators,” have also been established to help people navigate the ACA, if they have specific questions about how the different plan options would affect themselves and their family. Legal Services of Northern Virginia is working as a navigator, their number is (703) 778-6800. You can also visit www.moran.house.gov for more information.