By Elsa Maxey
Like it or not, the U.S. is moving forward with the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as ObamaCare or simply the Affordable Care Act signed into law in 2010. Under this mandate, every legal U.S. resident not already covered under Medicare or an employer-provided health care plan will be required to have health insurance. There will also be federal subsidies for those falling in poverty income levels.
In the alternative, if, by 2014 every citizen of the U.S. 18 years and above does not have health insurance, a penalty ranging between $695 to $1,200 will be accessed by the federal government, according to Rosalinda V. Diestro, GHRA Think Insurance Group representative. “You need to be proactive and if you think ObamaCare is not starting until 2014…it has started already.”
On December 19, about 600 small business owners met with Diestro at the Stafford Centre on Cash Road to review the implications of the health law and its impact on their respective businesses. Diestro, the event organizer, told business owners that since Texas opted out of participating in the set up of a state exchange in accordance with the enacted health care law, there will be federal insurance exchanges in place instead. Diestro said that basically, “these will be health insurance stores or medical exchange shops.” She said that eligible shoppers will include workers whose employers don’t provide affordable health care, those that decide “to pay or not play.”
Of significant importance, “by March 2013, every single employer is supposed to tell an employee that an exchange is now available,” said Diestro referring to the developing option for these small business employers. She explained that President Barack Obama’s administration gave states the option to set up their own exchanges, partner with the federal government or just let Washington do it.
This past November about a week before Thanksgiving, Gov. Rick Perry reportedly wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Governor Perry said Texas would not be setting up the health exchange and would partner with the federal government in setting up a health exchange under ObamaCare. Of fiscal impact in Texas, due to exercising to opt out of the insurance exchange set up, the federal government reportedly will charge a 3.5 percent fee on plans sold through exchanges it operates.
According to Diestro, beginning in 2014, there will only be four available insurance plans … bronze, silver, gold and platinum. This is when consumer driven health care will take full effect.