August 18, 2013

Letter: Oops

— If you have been waiting with eager anticipation for the rollout of the Affordable Care Act on Jan. 1, 2014, you need to take a deep breath and settle back in your easy chair. Things aren’t going according to plan. Essential regulations are still being written.

Georgia’s federally facilitated exchange (marketplace) isn’t ready. This is where you are supposed to shop for an insurance plan for you and your family. Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens requested a one-month extension to figure out why insurance rates will go up. “Generally, for the younger, it’s going to be better than a 100 percent increase,” Hudgens told Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jim Galloway. He says that’s too high.

Georgia started out with seven companies offering plans, but two companies withdrew (Aetna and Coventry). Two of the remaining five are reconsidering because they are small and aren’t sure they can compete, especially since they must immediately cover pre-existing conditions.  There isn’t much inducement for so few companies to lower prices to compete for your dollars.

For economic reasons, Georgia has chosen not to expand Medicaid to meet new federal guidelines, but that’s another story. So if you were expecting to get new Medicaid coverage you may have to buy subsidized insurance in the marketplace. That should be easy since no one has to check whatever figures you put down. If you work for a large company and were assuming they would begin offering coverage, you might have to wait a year since big companies were given an extra year’s waiver. Some companies will find it cheaper to pay a penalty and not offer insurance at all so you may have to find your own insurance anyway.

Apparently our imperial president can change laws by decree. He just finagled a deal that will allow the government to continue paying about 75 percent of the cost of insurance premiums for members of Congress and their staff, disregarding the income cap for federal subsidies for the rest of us. The president, his family and his staff and appointees will continue to be covered by federal employees’ health benefits.

The Department of Health and Human Services must collect your life history from birth to enforce this law. They will have your Social Security number, physical and mental health history, including all diseases, surgeries and medications, as well as access to your banking and financial records (the IRS must know if you have insurance). Unfortunately, they have no sure way to secure that information from hackers. Oops!

Ina Fay Manly