Today I decided to review the full text of the Obamacare law to see how it relates to the trucking community. Honestly, pretty much a snooze fest in the legalese of Washington Lawmakers. I wanted to see if Obamacare is as bad as everyone is saying. I personally think for my situation and the situation of many of today’s Owner Operators and Lease Operators in the trucking industry being self-insured this will be a welcome change. Healthcare costs are out of control in this country and the “buck” is being passed on to the people with insurance and to the taxpayers. To quote the ACA research directly on page 163, ” The cost of providing uncompensated care to the uninsured was $43,000,000,00 in 2008.” What this means is that all the people who went to the doctor without insurance or didn’t pay their portion of the charges causes the insurance companies and tax-payers to cover that enormous loss. These losses are why the self-employed and group insurance plans get jacked up every year. I am about twenty-five percent of the way through the law and some of the more interesting things in the law are below.
In section 2717 “Ensuring the Quality of Care” and under the sub heading of “Protection of Second Amendment Gun Rights” it basically says that if you are a gun owner and / or have ammunition. This information does not have to be disclosed to anyone and cannot be recorded in any mass data bank. I know many of us out on the road are big supporters of the Second Amendment and since this was one of the things that caught my attention I would bring it up. The second item that I thought was of interest was under section 2718 “Bringing Down the Cost of Healthcare Coverage” sub heading “Requirement to Provide Value for Premium Payments” “Standard Hospital Charges”. This makes the hospitals provide a list with prices of their standard care. What makes up the list of their “standard care” I’m not too sure about. However, it would be nice to see them list an Ibuprofen for $4.00. I think I’d bring the bottle from the house. With this addition to the law we could actually plan for at least some of our hospital charges and make arrangements prior to the visit.
Another interesting bit of research found in the text is that “Administrative costs for private health insurance were $90,000,000,000 in 2006. Under the new health insurance law, insurance companies must use premiums to pay for at least 80% health care related costs in small markets and individual policies or 85% in large markets. Therefore, we can surmise that these new plans should cut the administrative costs down and put the premium money to use where it should be used which is in our healthcare. There is also going to be a new appeals process when an insurance carrier denies payment on a claim. This appeals process will have an internal review side and an external review side. So rather than being left holding the bag with no recourse we will now be able to appeal the denial of coverage which is a vast improvement.
Pediatric care, gynecological care and maternity care will also now be standard with all plans. However, if your state does not support abortion, it can, create a law to make abortion not a covered procedure. These changes will now ensure that women and children are not discriminated against just because they have the existing condition of being a woman or a child. And since we mentioned pre-existing conditions, this as well is no longer applicable to the new health care plans. In my opinion I think this is a great change for people that have children with special needs, women (single or married) that are pregnant and obviously people with pre-existing conditions. No longer can an insurance carrier “dump” you from their plan just because you get a life threatening diagnosis like cancer or jack up your rates because you were blessed with a child that needs extra care due to their disabilities. As well, in my opinion no longer hold their caregivers or parents hostage in a low-wage job so they can receive the benefits of SSI.
In the first section of the Obamacare bill that I read it also talks about the rebates given to individuals, small business and large business. I will cover how it all breaks down in a later posting but, for now I wanted to mention that if your an employee of a small business (1-100) employees, the owner of the business does get rebates back for what portion that he or she pays towards your coverage. So, if your employer tells you that they can’t afford the coverage they will be getting a reimbursement. However, I do like the option of buying your own health plan on the exchanges rather than using your employer’s coverage for the simple fact that it is portable. It will stay with you no matter where you work. The time where I would not go outside of an employer plan is if they cover a significant cost of the premium.
If you decide that Obamacare is not for you then, as most of you know, there will be a penalty. The penalty for not signing up for 2014 is $95 or 1% of your yearly income whichever is greater. Furthermore, if you have dependents (i.e. spouse, children) you will also be responsible for them as well with a maximum yearly penalty for 2014 of $285. The adults flat rate penalty is $95, while children 18 and under are $47.50 respectively. On this subject I do understand that people don’t like to be “forced” into something. However, in this case my opinion is that if your going to have to pay something anyway, why not get the benefits from it.
One of the big questions out there is, “Can I keep my health insurance I have now?” Well, kind of, in this case we are referring to “Grandfathered Plans”. Grandfathered plans are those that were in existence on March 23, 2010 and have stayed basically the same. But job-based grandfathered plans can enroll people after that date and still maintain their grandfathered status. In other words, even if you joined a job-based grandfathered plan after March 23, 2010, the plan may still be grandfathered. The status depends on when the plan was created, not when you joined it. However, grandfathered plans will have “lifetime maximums” and also some of the other weaker coverage than plans with the new Affordable Care Act.
Automatic enrollment for large employers. Large employers considered to have 200 employees or more are required to enroll you in one of their health plans offered. What this means is that when you are offered health insurance at work, make sure you sign up for it so that you are making the decisions. As well, you can get a “Free Choice Voucher” from your employer if you would like to purchase insurance through the exchange and this would basically work as a credit towards you purchasing healthcare through the exchange. The amount would be determined by the employer and would generally be what that employer contributes to the healthcare of their employees. Which makes getting a portable plan through the exchange a really good option in my opinion, just in case you decided to switch jobs in the future.
I have heard some complain about the government healthcare sponsoring euthanasia as a way to curb costs. In plain English, letting the really sick people die and the really old people die by not covering the care to them they need to survive. However, it is not as it appears, in reviewing section 1553 “Prohibition Against Discrimination on Assisted suicide” it says that the government, hospitals or doctors cannot provide assisted suicide or euthanasia.
Now all this sounds pretty good right? Well, the first negative section appeared to me and was pretty vague at first. However, when re-reading and doing more research my initial conclusions were validated. This section is 1555 “Freedom not to participate in Federal health insurance programs”. Provides that no individual, company, business, nonprofit entity, or health insurance issuer shall be required to participate in any Federal health insurance program created under this Act. At first, we look at it and think, great we don’t have to participate. However, this is an entry for the insurance issuers. Basically, they don’t have to participate in their own plans?!? I found this very odd and it also compounds to the agencies that help people sign up and etc, etc. Therefore, we have a group of people that are special in America. What else is new? This for me is not a deal breaker, just the first mention of a little shadiness.
This is a review and highlights of the first 200 pages of the 974 pages of the Affordable Care Act otherwise known as Obamacare. Stay tuned to the next several pages to see what surprises they have tucked neatly into this law. The link to the site that provides this document is http://housedocs.house.gov/energycommerce/ppacacon.pdf it is long and monotonous to read but, I feel like we need to know the truth of the law, especially as it applies to the trucking community. Thanks for reading part one of Obamacare, let me know your thoughts and be safe out there!