There has been a lot of confusion about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more commonly known as Obamacare. This massive healthcare reform has changed the landscape for health insurance coverage, not to mention medical care in general, and although it has been in effect for a couple of years now, there are still many people who do not entirely understand the program, what it entails, or how it affects them. So here is a simplified overview of this system of health coverage.
Let’s just start by addressing two major concerns: Obamacare has not eliminated private insurance, nor has it created socialized medicine in America (not that either of these things would necessarily be “bad”, but both are common misconceptions about Obamacare). What it has done is make two major changes to our prior system of health coverage. It has mandated that all citizens must legally meet minimum standards for health insurance coverage, creating a level of personal responsibility when it comes to health concerns. It has also provided a system by which every American may find affordable coverage options, via the health insurance marketplace.
What does this mean for the average citizen? For some people, there will be no immediate effect. Many Americans that are insured through employer-sponsored plans have continued to enjoy uninterrupted coverage. For others, the changes have been significant. This is especially true for traditionally underserved groups. At its core, Obamacare was designed to provide affordable options for the estimated 30 million Americans that were unable to gain access to health insurance coverage and basic health care before the ACA was signed into law. This included low-income individuals and families, children, the elderly, and other groups.
Another group that has benefitted immensely from the passage of Obamacare is the number of Americans deemed to have preexisting conditions. Insurance providers often discriminated against these individuals charging more for insurance coverage, denying coverage for needed treatments, and even outright denial of insurance coverage. Obamacare made it illegal to discriminate in this manner, allowing all U.S. citizens the opportunity to gain equitable health coverage.
The Obamacare system can be somewhat confusing to navigate, but the basic setup is as follows. Every American may enroll through the federal system, Healthcare.gov, or through state-run health insurance exchanges (in states that offer them). Consumers can enroll online, by phone, by mail, or in person. From there, they have the opportunity to peruse a variety of plans in order to select the best coverage at an affordable price. There are four tiers of plans, bronze, silver, gold, and platinum, with varying costs and coverage options. Those that qualify may also be eligible to receive financial assistance or, given their income, can qualify for Medicare, Medicaid, and related programs.
Individuals will have to decide what type of health insurance coverage is most suitable for their needs and limitations. In some cases, employer-sponsored plans will provide the best options. In other cases, private insurance or health coverage through Obamacare may be preferable. The point is that every U.S. citizen now has more options and benefits where healthcare insurance is concerned, and there are plenty of resources available to help you further explore your options.
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