Obamacare? Let CNBC Explain…

President Barack Obama has passed his landmark healthcare reform law. It’s referred to by several names—the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or just the Affordable Care Act—but even the president uses the critic’s name: Obamacare.

Sure, the name is simple. But this is a complicated law. It wants to tackle two problems: first, it seeks to provide affordable health insurance to just about every American, and second, it wants to slow down the rate of inflation of healthcare costs, which account for nearly one-fifth of America’s economy (you saw John Green’s brilliant video, right?).

Okay, insurance for everyone sounds nice. We’re not going to argue with that sentiment, although the methodology might backfire. However, this second point sounds ludicrous.

“Add red tape to curb American healthcare costs? That’s like pouring gasoline on a fire because it’s liquid.” – @AtlasMD [CLICK TO TWEET]

Oh, and “the ACA will cost the government $1.36 trillion to implement over the next decade, according to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office,” says CNBC. Excellent. That’s just another tab that’s going to have to be picked up by someone, most likely someone who works and pays taxes.

Then there is the controversial part of Obamacare—the mandate that individuals obtain health insurance by 2014 or face a financial penalty when they file their year-end tax return. This is just taking full effect, with the recent opening of enrollment on government-run insurance exchanges. The tens of millions of people who don’t already have insurance from their employer, a current individual plan, Medicare, or Medicaid will now be able to purchase insurance on exchanges operating in each state.

Okay, okay. I keep hearing how Obamacare is the scourge of humanity. Is there anything good about it?
Sure, under the new law:

  • Insurers will be barred from denying people coverage for pre-existing conditions.
  • Insurers won’t drop subscribers when they get sick.
  • Insurers can’t put lifetime limits on benefits paid out.
  • Insurers can’t charge different rates for men and women.
  • Insurance plans must cover certain minimum benefits, such as preventative care, breastfeeding services, child immunizations and adult vaccinations.
  • People who are younger than age 26 can be covered by their parents’ insurance plans.
  • Medicaid, the federal health program for poor people, is being expanded to cover lower-income people who weren’t already covered. *

* The 2012 Supreme Court decision left it to individual states to decide whether to authorize the expansion—as of late September, only about half of the states are doing so.

What about the Obamacare mandate that companies with more than 50 full-time workers must offer affordable health insurance plans to employees or face a fine?
Good news, that has been delayed until 2015. We’ll call that a win of sorts. Penalizing workers is such an austere method of getting them to offer a benefit to employees. Again, without getting too idealistic, do you wonder why workers keep working jobs that offer fewer and fewer benefits, and less stable hours? Maybe it’s because healthcare COSTS SO MUCH. The law seeks to further “control” healthcare costs, though, by penalizing hospitals who have patients re-admitted shortly after they are discharged. Amazing. Let’s add more stress to doctors who are burnt out BECAUSE THEY CAN’T GET PAID FOR WORKING RIDICULOUS HOURS, TO TREAT MORE AND MORE PATIENTS, JUST TO STAY IN BUSINESS.

On a side note, insurers who spend too much on overhead are now required to reimburse a portion of premiums to their customers. Again, we haven’t seen the numbers yet, so this is speculation, but reports are coming in of existing PPO subscribers seeing severe rate increases. Maybe those rate hikes will help cover the potential penalties facing the insurance companies?

More Obamacare Links
“Obamacare: CNBC Explains” | CNBC
A great summary of Obamacare. READ MORE

“8 More Things You Need To Know About Obamacare” | CNBC
Click through a slideshow to learn a few more things included within this massive legislation. READ MORE

“Health insurance exchanges: CNBC explains” | CNBC
Learn how you can enroll for Obamacare online. READ MORE

“Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” | Health and Human Services (hhs.gov)
In case you wondered how many pages it really is… 2,409. READ MORE