The Affordable Care Act and Obamacare: Will You Use the Insurance Marketplaces? Should You?

BlogHer Original Post

Sure, we all want to bury our heads in the sand whenever we hear more conversation, ahem, debate, kick up around the keystone provision of the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare"). And chances are the government may shut down tomorrow due to Congressional in-fighting over Obamacare, even though that won't stop the Obamacare marketplace exchanges. Obamacare is funded differently, and those two issues are different. But ... let's leave the politics out of it. The fact is that you need to do yourself the service of knowing what the ACA is, how it applies to you, and whether it will make your health insurance cheaper, better or more available to you. We're all confused, because this is confusing: A recent poll by The Wall Street Journal/NBC found that 76% of uninsured adults said they did not understand the law and how it would affect them.

What Are the Marketplaces?

Have you ever tried to buy health insurance without it being offered through your employer or covered by your parents or spouse? Confusing. Expensive. So confusing and expensive that 48 million Americans just went without in 2012. And that's no good -- do you know how much it costs to have a baby without insurance? Maybe $30,000, if nothing goes wrong. Despite the consequences of not having insurance, finding coverage for one person in the past was a time-consuming, intimidating and frustrating experience, and some self-employed people who did finally find insurance paid more than a mortgage for high-deductible healthcare coverage. This problem is what the marketplaces were invented to combat.

Basically, the marketplaces are a nationwide network of state health insurance marketplaces that will allow individuals to buy coverage as part of a large “pool” rather than as an individual, giving the uninsured, self-employed or under-insured access to new health plans at lower rates. The open enrollment period opens October 1, 2013, and ends March 31, 2014, through www.healthcare.gov.

If you know absolutely nothing about the ACA marketplaces set to open October 1, 2013 (that's tomorrow), here's a short explanatory video from the Obama administration focusing only on those marketplaces.

What Do the Marketplaces Mean for Insurance Companies?

Through the combination of the “individual mandate” (starting in 2014, everyone must have health insurance) and the new marketplaces, insurance companies could secure up to 40 million uninsured customers they have not been able to reach on their own. By providing financial assistance, Obamacare aims to ensure even low- to moderate-income individuals can afford coverage.

On the flip side, insurance companies must now offer insurance to anyone with pre-existing conditions and at same rates as healthy individuals. Insurance companies also cannot drop customers for being ill or limit coverage based on any annual or lifetime cap.

If you want a more in-depth look at how the changes break down for younger people versus older people, poorer people versus wealthier people and private citizens versus corporations, here's a longer video from YouToons.

What about you? How will the new insurance marketplaces affect you and your family?

And what do you think of Obamacare overall? Use the Swipp slider to share your opinion. +5 means you completely support Obamacare; while -5 would mean you are totally against it.

Rita Arens is the author of the young adult novel The Obvious Game & the deputy editor of BlogHer.com. Find more at www.ritaarens.com.

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