In 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act became law. Sometimes called “Obamacare,” the law is big, complex, and the subject of far too much political punditry. Whether you approve of the law or not, its major provisions start to go into effect soon, and it’s important to understand what you might need to do. If you have any questions about how the new law will affect you, please feel free to contact my office at (617)-722-2380. You can also read the Commonwealth’s Affordable Care Act FAQs here.
Here in Massachusetts, we’ve had an individual health insurance mandate for a while now, and as a result, we already have the lowest percentage of uninsured people in the country. Because our law served as a model for the rest of the country, most of us will see absolutely no changes to our health insurance. With all the misinformation that’s circulating, I want to make it clear that the following groups of people will see no changes to their health insurance:
• People who currently get health insurance through their employer. If you get health insurance from your employer—and 72.9% of us do—you should receive a notice like this one on or before October 1, 2013. You’re free to shop for a different plan if you’d like, but if you’re happy with your current plan, you can keep it.
• People under 26 years old who are currently on their parents’ insurance plans.
• People who are currently enrolled in Medicare or get their health insurance through the Veterans Administration.
If you’re in one of the three groups listed above, you don’t need to do anything, though you’re free to shop for health insurance options through the Commonwealth Connector. However, if you’re currently purchasing health insurance through the Commonwealth Connector, you will need to reapply and select which plan you’d prefer, even if you want to keep the plan you’re currently on. The Commonwealth Connector, along with Health Care for All and others, will be reaching out to affected citizens through phone calls, radio and TV ads, and even through door-to-door visits.
A large part of the new law deals with expanding access to health insurance, and the following groups of people may be able to afford (or afford to provide) coverage for the first time:
• A family of four earning less than $31,000 per year may qualify for low- or no-cost coverage through MassHealth. In fact, anyone earning up to 133% of the federal poverty limit (that’s $15,288 per year for individuals) now qualifies for MassHealth.
• Anyone earning up to 400% of the federal poverty limit is also eligible for “premium support” —subsidies from the government to help you purchase coverage from the Commonwealth Connector. That means that a family of four earning up to $94,200 per year qualifies for subsidies. If you’re an individual earning $45,960 or less each year, you qualify too.
• There are also tax credits for small businesses employing fewer than 25 full-time employees who make an average of $50,000 or less each. The Connector’s Wellness Track offers further rebates for small businesses who help their employees obtain health care.
There’s a lot more to the law than just what I’ve listed here, including the brand-new ability to shop for dental insurance through the Commonwealth Connector. If you have questions about how the law will affect you, please feel free to contact my office or the Health Care for All helpline at (800)-272-4232. You can also find easy-to-use resources here, and wonkier resources here.
The bottom line is this: starting on October 1, more people than ever will have the opportunity to obtain health insurance for less money than ever. And that’s something we can all be proud of.