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Locals react as Individual Mandate opens

Affordable Care Act remains a contentious issue in the U.S., Sidney

 

The Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” was signed into law in March of 2010, with the first major provision going into effect on October 1.

The ACA's individual mandate requires millions of uninsured Americans to sign up for quality health coverage, with subsidies to help cover the expense for some. Those that visit the Health Insurance Marketplace and sign up now will begin to receive coverage in January.

Although studies reveal that many people are not aware about the changes that accompany the implementation of the ACA, Americans have strong opinions about the law.

“What it amounts to, it’s a blindfold for the American people that’s going to put us in government health care,” Smokey and Dana Gurney explained. “It’s illegal. It’s another step toward socialism. What part of our Constitution says that you have to have it [health care]? It’s just another way of the government controlling your life. Because in that deal, they can go into your records and the government has full access to your records. That’s invasion of privacy.”

The couple said that the new health care plan was going to cost them a lot of money and that there is nothing affordable about it.

“Republicans are lying. They’re not listening to their constituents and they’re not credible. They’re taking democratic rule away from voters and keep creating false crises, and I’m a registered republican,” said a man who asked not to be identified. “What if 30-40 republicans changed party affiliation overnight? Then they could get everything resolved. If I knew who to call in Washington, I would.”

The Republican controlled House of Representatives and Democrat controlled Senate are still at odds about the policy. Since they did not reach an agreement by midnight on October 1, the government is temporarily shut down. Hundreds of thousands of “unnecessary” government employees are currently furloughed—this includes parks employees, NASA and the CDC, to name a few.

“Right now if he [President Obama] does shut that down, my brother’s screwed out of the Army,” Sidney resident, Jonathon Lancaster said. “Why are people going to put their lives at risk when they’re not getting paid?”

Many Americans are worried that national security is now in jeopardy due to the shutdown, but servicemen and women will continue to be paid, though the furloughs mean experiencing poorly maintained barracks and a lack of counseling and family outreach programs, according to USA Today. Free calls to those overseas will be reduced during this time.

“As military people, you depend on, you know, those decisions being made, hoping that they [Congress] know what’s best for everybody and it doesn’t sound like they’re seeing eye-to-eye for what people are wanting,” former member of the Air Force, Mike Johnson explained. “They’re going to have to give in on both sides just to get to a certain point. I surely can’t see it [the shutdown] lasting longer than a week.”

Despite the acrimony, polls show that fewer than 20 percent of Americans understand the provisions included in the ACA. On a line item basis, the majority tend to favor these provisions, with a few notable exceptions.

As more provisions are implemented over the next few years, small businesses, for instance, may be eligible for tax credit when providing health insurance. Businesses with 50 or more employees will come under an employers mandate.

Not much will change with seniors on Medicare, as the government has already taken strides to make prescriptions more affordable, but Medicaid will be expanding to cover those bringing in lower incomes. However, governors and legislators of individual states get to decide to adopt the Medicaid expansion or not, so only 26 states are currently on board.

Nebraska is one of the 24 states not moving forward at this time.

Individuals will be able to purchase health care plans at the Health Insurance Marketplace, which is like a “megamall” of insurance. Private insurers compete for your business and you get to decide how much coverage you want as well as how much you want to pay. Plans range from bronze, silver, gold and platinum.

Not all governors will decide to set up marketplaces, but the federal government will step in and set them up in those locations.

Currently, 13 percent of Nebraskans are without health insurance. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Nebraska has received $6,481,838 in HYPERLINK "http://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Marketplace-Grants/index.html" HYPERLINK "http://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Marketplace-Grants/index.html" HYPERLINK "http://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Marketplace-Grants/index.html"grants for research, planning, information technology development, and implementation of its Health Insurance Marketplace. 

All plans will include the basics; emergency hospital visits, doctor visits, maternity and newborn care, mental health care and prescription drugs, and insurers cannot raise costs for those with preexisting conditions.

Men and women will now pay the same price for health insurance, and prices for the elderly will decrease while younger people will pay more. However, young people will be able to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26, which provides three million young people with health insurance that would otherwise not be covered.

Though the ACA is projected to cover 14 million uninsured people by 2014, there are pitfalls. Individuals can only get coverage during specific enrollment periods (October 1 - March 31), though exceptions can be made for life-altering circumstances. Those still uninsured will be required to pay a fine of $95 in the form of a tax penalty due to the Individual Mandate. However, if a person really cannot afford coverage, the government can agree to waive the fee. Through the Affordable Care Act, people will be required to provide the government with your name, address, age, income, the size of your family and whether or not you’re a smoker, as the law includes a premium surcharge for those who choose to light up.

The law is paid for through taxes on the health industry, even tanning salons and individuals, specifically the wealthier Americans. Hospitals and insurance companies participating will also get paid less. With a pay cut to the medical field, less young people are pursuing those career paths.

 

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