“Healthcare in 2011: What to do in the current environment”
By Robin Lee Clark
Here in 2011, we are watching a burgeoning healthcare law (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act  , aka Obamacare) that is revealing itself slowly as it is being implemented — too big and too complicated to individually assess. Most of us feel helpless as we look into the abyss of our healthcare future. There are things, however, we should do now to protect ourselves and our families as we continue along this tightrope, whether or not we find ourselves with solid ground closer beneath us. Information is our friend, so here are a few points to ponder.
How the law effects our current situation:
The sad reality of Obamacare is that it will provide coverage for 32 million by 2019, but still leave 24 million uninsured, according to the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) reports   .
These reports also conclude that:
— millions will be forced into the Medicaid system;
— millions will be discouraged from coverage because of rising premiums (due to new insurance industry mandates for broader coverage);
— and millions who are currently insured under their employer will be dropped (due to new regulations and costs on employers).
So, many are considering new insurance options for themselves and their families. Individual insurance options are being considered by many who have never had to seek them out. Even though one is currently covered by one’s employer, it is wise to at least know what is available to you (should you find yourself in this new territory).
Group insurance is most often more comprehensive than individual insurances, and is much less expensive (mainly due to large ‘risk pools’ — which may include both young and healthy individuals, as well as those with pre-existing conditions). Portability is the major setback to group insurance — ‘you can’t take it with you’ is the mantra here (at least, not without the premiums eventually skyrocketing to individual rates, once COBRA expires).
As of 2011, the Obamacare does not preclude individual insurers from discriminating against pre-existing conditions for non-group policies — thereby making most major medical insurances unavailable to certain high-risk individuals (depending on your specific illness). The pre-existing conditions portion of Obamacare is slated to be implemented in 2014. Until that time, those with pre-existing conditions are best served under employer-sponsored major medical group insurance.
In just the last few years, ‘Association-based’ insurance entities have become popular, providing lower-cost major medical programs to individuals. These insurance entities are basically insurance companies that have linked (or ‘associated’) themselves with a group or association, thereby creating a large ‘risk pool’ to lower overall costs to the individual. Unfortunately, these insurance entities do not necessarily allow for pre-existing conditions, currently.
What are our choices?
Our choices are being governed by the PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) law. The Individual Mandate is the biggest element governing our choices. This mandate would require each individual and family who has the means to do so, purchase and maintain their own coverage. The penalty for non-compliance with the mandate will not be implemented until 2014 — and currently this portion of the law is slated to go before the Supreme Court to review it’s Constitutionality. In the meantime, we are still responsible for our own healthcare protection, with or without a penalty — Obamacare will not protect you from financial liability if you are uninsured and are ‘financially able’.
In my next installment in this series, I will cover the various types of insurance options and their coverage, along with resource links for you to consider and study for your own use in your decision-making process.
We can do something to protect ourselves, even though the current system is evolving and in potential flux (with the possibility of revision and/or repeal). We shouldn’t allow ourselves to become victims to a system that we don’t understand. Information is empowering and freeing, especially when facing this unstable ‘healthcare tightrope’, upon which we find ourselves.
 PPCA – Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
 CBO Analysis Slide Show (regarding employer responses):
 CBO Statement to the Senate on Obamacare
Wikipedia — Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act:
Wikipedia — Health insurance in the United States
Consumers Guide To Health Reform
Impact of Obamacare: Facts, Statistics, Charts and Videos
Number of people without health insurance climbs