Affordable Care Act Myths + Facts
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, better known as Obamacare, is a very long bill, covering taxes, health insurance and medical system reform in the U.S.
Due to its length and numerous revisions, the law has been a baffling one from the start, but along with misunderstanding terms and provisions also comes disapproval and a few fairy tales from the law’s Republican opponents. Not only have there been numerous lawsuits debating the ACA’s constitutionality, but a scare tactic trend to confuse the already-confused has been on the rise with myths about the federal law.
Before we begin, it may be hard to believe, but Obamacare is not proof of the New World Order or an Orwellian prophesy come true. While the law is quite long, and insurance isn’t always easy to understand as a newcomer, the health reform bill signed on March 23, 2010 isn’t much different than other laws in American History.
And like every bill that becomes a law, both Democrats and Republicans were involved in its creationg. In fact, the federal health reform law was modeled after Massachusetts’ statewide health reform initiative, now called Romneycare, which was created by a Republican, Mitt Romney.
Some information has been misunderstood or just blown out of proportion. Please refer to the following information to clarify any misconceptions you may have about Obamacare, which is simply a nickname for the Affordable Care Act.
Obamacare is Not the Affordable Care Act
The popular media name for the health reform law has become Obamacare, originally a pejorative title meant to bash the president who signed it. After President Barack Obama decided to embrace the term, his marketing team released a campaign saying “ObamaCares” as a means of continuing to implement the law in the face of adversity.
The marketing campaign didn’t make Obamacare the official name of the law. On paper, it’s H.R. 3590, or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.
Some confusion exists that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act are different, or that Obamacare is a type of government-issued health insurance plan. Obamacare is used loosely to describe the law, and the marketplace health insurance plans created by it.
Mandatory RFID Microchip Implants
H.R. 3200, a house bill that predates the Affordable Care Act and was an earlier version of the law, contains an excerpt discussing microchips that resulted in a heyday for conspiracy theorists, and has unfortunately trickled down to the likes of ordinary consumers.
The myth was that Obamacare requires every American to receive an RFID microchip implant by the year 2017, so that the government can collect data. RFID stands for radio-frequency identification, and chips are used in various industries to collect data as they hold electronic information.
Concerns are growing about implantation in humans, which the FDA has approved. The ACA claim is of course untrue, taken out of context from an unsuccessful bill known as America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009.
What H.R. 3200 actually proposes is that the Food and Drug Administration create a national medical device registry.
This bit was in the midst of other text providing the roots of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, including the ideas of health insurance exchanges and loan programs for workers in the healthcare field.
H.R. 3200 was never passed, and H.R. 3590 doesn’t mention microchips, or that people will be implanted with them.
Obamacare does mention CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and implementing, not implanting, various provisions of the law until 2020.
The Marketplace is the Only Health Insurance Option
While the health insurance exchanges created a new opportunity to gain coverage for a large group of Americans, it certainly does not replace every other form of coverage.
Health insurance in the U.S. is comprised of several markets, including private employer-sponsored plans, small group coverage (for smaller companies), individual health plans, short-term health insurance, and public or government-sponsored coverage such as Medicare, CHIP and Medicaid.
Those who are insured by any other type of health plan already don’t need to leave their plan and shop on the marketplace. The exchanges serve the individual and small group markets, but mostly the uninsured, low-to-moderate income population qualifying for subsidies to reduce costs.
While other people can choose a marketplace plan over their current plans, it’s not going to be the most cost-effective option, especially if you have Medicare or a benefit-rich employer plan. The law doesn’t advise anyone to leave their plans, either.
Online Enrollment is Impossible
Enrollment in the federally-run health insurance marketplace is possible, as the website HealthCare.gov, which has undergone many repairs is up-and-running. The site had a very rocky start, with many glitches including a system failure, but consumers are now able to apply for health insurance plans.
While the site isn’t perfect, we project it will run smoothly in future open enrollment periods.
Several states have their own websites for coverage, which have also experienced some technical difficulties. Consumers across the country have still been able to enroll in health plans, however, not as many as would have if the sites worked well or an alternative means of enrollment was available sooner.
Insurers advocated a direct enrollment method that health insurers and agents can use, and the Department of Health and Human Services made changes to the federal website to enable this feature in December 2013. Though this feature is mostly direct for insurers, it still involves use of the federal portal at some point.
Our brokerage has successfully enrolled people in the health insurance marketplace and can assure you it is possible.
Not Paying the Obamacare Penalty Tax Results in Jail Time
Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance is a requirement. If you can afford insurance and do not purchase a plan or enroll in an employer plan, Medicaid, or another form of coverage, you must pay a tax.
Enrolling in a short-term health plan or a policy that covers less than 60 percent of your estimated annual costs will also be penalized. One misunderstanding about the law was that you could go to jail if you choose to be uninsured and do not pay the penalty.
In the event that you avoid paying the tax for being uninsured, the Internal Revenue Service will deduct the penalty from your federal income tax return. The IRS is unable to enforce the Individual Shared Responsibility provision, also called the individual mandate, with liens, jail time or any other legal penalties.
“If you like your plan you can keep it.”
President Obama made his own glitch when addressing the public in 2012, as he assured those with health insurance that if they liked the current coverage they had, there was no risk of losing it.
However, in October 2013 when the exchanges opened, an estimated 500,000 individual health policies were canceled as they didn’t meet the requirements to avoid the penalty for being uninsured. Those who had their plans canceled are exempt from the individual mandate penalty if they can’t find coverage in time.
But because the law outlines specific coverage requirements for policies sold on the individual market, hundreds of thousands of people were given no choice but to find new plans.
In order to avoid the penalty, your individual plan must cover at least 60 percent actuarial value, or the average amount spent on healthcare in a year.
Obamacare Requires People to Receive an Annual Exam
The health law requires health insurance companies to pay for annual exams for each policyholder at 100 percent. If you’re insured, this means it’s free to get your blood pressure, glycemic index and cancer-prone regions checked by an in-network doctor.
One misunderstanding about the law is that you have to go to the doctor for the recommended preventive exams. While no law requires you to get screened for breast cancer, diabetes or hypertension, it’s probably a good idea to take advantage of this option.