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Obamacare unveiled

The ambiguous messages and hobbled rollout of Obamacare prompted the country’s president to assuage discontent by allowing states to extend cancel-bound plans another year—an offer Colorado didn’t accept.

The time is up for Coloradans to comply with the regulations of the federal health care overhaul, also called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

All non-exempted consumers seeking private health care coverage must enroll in a compliant plan by March 31, 2014—or pay a fine. State insurance commissioners denied carriers the chance to extend old plans through 2014. For consumers to gain coverage by Jan. 1, they must enroll by Dec. 23, according to Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s health insurance marketplace.How Obamacare impacts Colorado

Colorado is one of at least 10 Democratic-run states to disallow an extension. Analysts say the decision could placate critics or it could undermine the law’s design to give more Americans plans with broader coverage.

Heavy political debate is expected to hit fever pitch in 2014 over the one-size-fits-all health care system, the White House’s signature domestic initiative to centralize America’s health care decisions in Washington.

Pro-life tax
The Catholic community is especially outspoken on Obamacare. The Church has long supported universal health care—reportedly since 1919—but withdrew support from Obamacare because of the contraceptive mandate.

Lawsuits and debates continue to surface, showing the standoff between the White House and the Church has yet to be resolved.

The University of Notre Dame and FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) filed lawsuits the last two months over the contraceptive mandate, saying even the administration’s proposed compromise leaves them complicit in sponsoring coverage for something it considers immoral, that is, the birth control pill and sterilizations.

Each qualified health plan must contain artificial contraceptive coverage, including nine other essential services like maternity and newborn care, regardless of an applicants’ age or sex.

Cases challenging the federal Health and Human Services mandate will also be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court in March. Hobby Lobby argues their employee health plans should not be forced to cover potentially life-terminating drugs that violate their beliefs.

Dorinda Bordlee, senior counsel with the Bioethics Defense Fund, a law and policy organization that advocates for human rights, said Obamacare creates a quagmire for pro-life advocates: purchase a morally unacceptable health plan or pay a fine.

“Because the conscience protecting option of dropping all coverage subjects (the plaintiffs) to the individual mandate tax imposed … it is—in effect—an unconstitutional tax on pro-life conscience,” she wrote in a brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals on behalf of the Catholic business leaders organization Legatus and the Catholic Medical Association.

Particularly problematic is a “secrecy clause” that instructs insurers to conceal abortion coverage and premiums when advertising in the online health plan marketplaces, Brodlee wrote.

According to one section of federal regulations on implementing Obamacare, each enrollee in the plan is mandated to make a separate payment, either from their own funds or payroll deduction directly into an account “used exclusively to pay for” other enrollees’ elective abortions.

Insurer’s coverage of abortion is restricted in most states, according to the Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. However, 15 states do not restrict coverage, except in cases of rape or incest. Colorado only restricts coverage for public employees, according to The Council of State Governments, a Kentucky-based forum for shaping public policy.

How it works
Many Coloradans are still required to purchase a plan whether supportive of the humanitarian ideal of Obamacare or torn by the conscience violations it proposes.

Connect for Health Colorado sponsored an RV tour around the state to promote its health plans and partnered with Protestant churches through “Health Coverage Sunday” to inform religious communities about plan options.

The health exchange began the promotional tours as actual enrollments in the fall were far lower than its original projections.

By Nov. 30, 9,980 consumers applied for private health insurance on the state exchange, below that month’s expected enrollments between 11,108 and 30,944. The exchange predicted a spike in December between 22,215 and 61,887 enrollments as the deadline approached.

However, in an email to the Denver Catholic Register, communications director Myung Oak Kim wrote these projections will be revised “based on current market conditions.”

Enrollments are crucial to the survival of Obamacare, analysts say, especially younger, healthier consumers who are able to offset costs of coverage for older or ill consumers.

Medicaid alone will be substantially impacted in Colorado, as thousands apply for the federal program for the low-income and needy.

Until the end of November, 64,290 consumers applied and qualified for Medicaid, according to Connect for Health Colorado. The Heritage Foundation projected a 44.2 percent increase in the state’s Medicaid population resulting in a $581 million bill to foot the cost through 2022.

DID YOU KNOW?

State deadlines for obtaining healthcare (This does not apply for those covered under employer plans, Medicare or Medicaid).

  • Sign-up by Dec. 23 if coverage is needed on Jan. 1
  • Deadline for first month’s premium payment is Jan. 10
  • Enroll no later than March 31 to avoid the penalty

Penalty for non-compliance The penalty is known as the “shared responsibility payment.” A consumer required to have health coverage in 2014 but who elects not to will pay a penalty. It will be due with their taxes on April 15, 2015. The penalty in 2014 is $95. This rises to $325 in 2015 and $695 in 2016.

Projected health insurance rates Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s health insurance marketplace, released estimated monthly premium costs for individuals and groups based on the county of residency, age and plan purchased.

Here is an estimation of plan costs for individuals living in Denver County.

27-year-old with:
Bronze Plan:
$153-$299
Silver Plan: $201-$377
Gold Plan: $234-$438
Platinum Plan: $264-$436

40-year-old with:
Bronze Plan: $186-$364
Silver Plan: $245-$460
Gold Plan: $286-$534
Platinum Plan: $322-$532

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