By South Jersey Times
on September 15, 2013 at 9:57 AM, updated September 15, 2013 at 2:15 PM
Ready or not, here comes Obamacare.
On Oct. 1, the health insurance exchanges authorized by the Affordable Care Act are scheduled to start enrolling new policyholders. The law requires the uninsured to buy health insurance by January or pay a fine. To facilitate the process, states can set up their own insurance exchanges — an “exchange” being a group of providers presumed to provide affordable policies — or use the federal exchange.
New Jersey chose the federal option; however, with only two weeks till lift-off, the massive overhaul still presents more questions than answers.
How much will the policies cost, and how will middle- to low-income families afford this additional expense? How will the uninsured connect with the tax credits and subsidies proposed to help them? Of New Jersey’s 1 million uninsured, 850,000 are expected to obtain coverage somehow, whether public or private, by Jan. 1. That suggests some 150,000 who won’t or can’t get coverage could be subject to fines.
In Newark last week, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said details on costs would not be available till the end of September, but New Jersey residents could find information at their neighborhood Rite-Aid. Aside from the “Say, what?” factor of relying on a chain drugstore for official government information, here’s what else we want to know:
– What about seasonal employees or those who must work a certain number of hours to get benefits? If Joe Dry-Wall hasn’t worked the minimum by Jan. 1, would he be fined? And if he’s covered by March, would the fine be returned? Suppose he’s off the books again by October? Then what?
– What about spouses who lose coverage through divorce? If Jane Goodwife is covered in January but loses her insurance in July, how long before a fine kicks in?
– Suppose Company X declares bankruptcy and the employees lose their benefits. Would the company be fined?
– If a family has extraordinary expenses one year, what’s to stop their premiums from escalating the next?
What’s the point of all this? To make Americans more healthy or to make the insurance industry more profitable?
Although it is Gov. Chris Christie’s fault that our state didn’t set up its own exchanges with familiar providers and policies, blame HHS and Sebelius for the dearth of information about what New Jerseyans face under the federal option come Oct. 1. The Obama administration dropped the ball, and that is a bad sign for things to come.