by Gerri Willis
The new health care law is starting to have a huge impact on people's lives, and it continues to be one of the most important topics we've covered on The Willis Report. In our series "User's Guide to Obamacare", a panel of experts answered your e-mails, tweets, Facebook questions and concerns regarding the Affordable Care Act. Here are some of your most important questions answered:
Q: I’d still like to know what the IRS can do if I refuse to buy insurance and refuse to pay the fine.
A: Similar to the IRS pursuing people for back taxes, it could eventually start putting people in prison for not paying the fine for being uninsured. This year, the penalty for being uninsured is 1 percent of the individual’s income and by 2016, it will be 2.5 percent of the individual’s income.
Q: If this coverage must accept pre-existing conditions, what will prevent anyone, 25 to 100 years of age, to not purchase the insurance until they need it?
A: The penalty is very low and that’s the incentive to not purchase the insurance. The only real catch is, if you don’t have insurance, you have wait until the next enrollment period and that is going to be the incentive to get in, but that may not be a strong enough incentive.
Q: Can you explain how the deductibles, copays, coinsurance work and can you explain what extra taxes we pay due to Obamacare and will it affect my HSA account?
A: If you are below the poverty level, you get your insurance for free. If you’re above 400% of the poverty level, in terms of income, you’re going to pay a lot more because you aren’t eligible for free insurance.
Q: What will happen to those that don’t sign for Obamacare? They pay a fine, then what? Do they just go the emergency room for treatment?
A: There is a difference between providing emergency care and covering emergency care. Doctors are obligated to take care of those who are uninsured and will continue to do so, but these individuals will not be covered by insurance for their care. Taxpayers will continue to pick up the tab, as in the past.
Q: How can anyone sign up for it when no one understands it?
A: You’re not alone! In a recent Pew survey, 53 percent of the public disapproves of the law and only 25% say they have a very good understanding of how law will impact them. If you want to sign up, you can visit http://www.healthcare.gov
Q: If you sign up for Obamacare, can you ever get out of it for a different plan?
A: If you provide all of your information and sign up for Obamacare and then cancel, you could be charged the penalty for not being insured.
Q: What sort of Obamacare privacy controls are in place?
Every day, personal information is the subject of hundreds of thousands of hacking attempts from all over the world. However, HHS will have to store user information in their servers as Americans sign up at healthcare.gov. Information technology is driving the future of health care and it must be part of any reforms moving forward. But the hub puts millions of Americans at risk by creating an open invitation to steal treasure troves of personal data.
Q: Will the elderly on Medicare and living in nursing homes still be covered through Medicare?
A: People on Medicare will essentially not be affected by Obamacare, but those on Medicare advantage could potentially expect to pay more. Their premiums could increase. Medicare patients should be concerned about the restriction of physician networks and the cost of prescription drugs could increase under Obamacare.
Q: What if I sign up on the exchange and miss one or more payments? Am I kicked out and do I have to pay the penalty?
A: There is a 90-day grace period during which you can miss payments and not be penalized. After 90 days, you will have to pay the penalty because you will no longer be insured.
Q: What will happen to concierge medicine/doctors?
A: Concierge medicine and paying cash for medical services might expand because those on the exchange with limited coverage will seek care elsewhere because of limited choices and quality of care.
Q: What happens to me if I cannot afford Obamacare come January 1st?
A: Your adjusted gross income, tax-free interest, foreign earnings, and social security benefits all count towards your income. You may sign up for a plan but may be unable to afford the out-of-pocket expenses or the deductible. If you have low income, you may get a subsidy, but the subsidies decrease steeply if you’re above 400% of the poverty level.