Affordable Care Act in Plain English — Accessibility and Affordability of Health Insurance

If you’ve made an effort to read through the Affordable Care Act of 2010—which is changing the face of American healthcare as we speak—you’ve probably noticed it’s not nearly as reader-friendly as it could be.

dollar billFollowing, in this post and two later ones, is a plain-English explanation of what key provisions of the ACA, a.k.a. Obamacare, are all about, and especially how they may affect Americans in general and people of Medicare age in particular.

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Accessibility and Affordability of Insurance

The Affordable Care Act is specifically designed to make health insurance more available to the approximately one in seven Americans who are uninsured now.

Under provisions of the ACA soon to take effect, insurance companies will be prohibited from denying anyone insurance due to preexisting conditions. With higher-risk individuals and groups no longer denied the right to purchase insurance, millions of currently uninsured Americans are expected to get healthcare coverage by the start of next year.

The ACA will also require businesses with more than 50 employees to make health insurance available to their workers by 2015 (recently changed from January 1 of 2014). Because many uninsured Americans are employed, it is widely believed that requiring employers to provide health coverage at reasonable cost will substantially reduce the number of uninsured in the USA.

For people still struggling to get health insurance under these conditions, the Affordable Care Act has also established the Health Insurance Marketplace, comprising health insurance exchanges in all 50 states and designed to provide uninsured Americans the opportunity to shop for inexpensive health coverage that can accommodate low-income individuals and families.

Every state is required to have an active Health Exchange by January of 2014, and individuals will be able to enroll beginning on Oct. 1 of this year.

Besides making it easier for many Americans to get health coverage—at rates that cannot be increased due to age—the ACA will require most Americans to have health insurance by Jan. 1 of next year. As with companies that do not cooperate with provisions of the ACA, individuals will also face penalties if they choose to remain uninsured.

The result of these measures is expected to be a decreased number of uninsured Americans. There is much debate over whether that will actually be the case—and whether the ACA in fact will make healthcare more affordable at all—but clearly one intent of the Affordable Care Act is to make healthcare more accessible and affordable to the millions of Americans who are uninsured now.

For most people of Medicare age, this intent of the ACA should not be of great impact. Medicare-eligible people are still strongly advised to enroll in Medicare at their earliest opportunity. The significant gaps in Original Medicare coverage also make it advisable for anyone of Medicare age to investigate Medicare supplement plans, which greatly reduce and often eliminate out-of-pocket costs associated with Medicare. Despite changes in the healthcare landscape in recent years stemming from the Affordable Care Act, this is still the best way to ensure comprehensive coverage and the likelihood of long-term savings.

Will the ACA reduce the number of uninsured? Leave a comment below!

Read our next article on the Affordable Care Act

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