A few weeks ago, I had the chance to attend a health and housing conference organized by the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. Part of the conference was a workshop geared towards helping artists navigate the Affordable Care Act, but it really applied to anyone who freelances or is otherwise self-employed. Listening to comments during the Q&A, from people who clearly need affordable healthcare but are struggling to figure out how the ACA applies in their specific situations, two things became clear:
The self-employed stand to benefit more than possibly anyone from Obamacare;
They’ll also have the hardest time enrolling through the new marketplaces.
Here we explain why navigating the new system is particularly difficult for freelancers and offer seven tips that should make the process a little easier. [click to continue reading...]
Now that the Obamacare website is mostly working, we’ve been interviewing people around the country to see whether the coverage they’re finding on the new marketplace is actually affordable. For the most part, the answer has been yes– at least for the premiums once the subsidies are factored in. A big concern though, particularly among those at the lower end of the income scale, are the high deductibles and out-of-pocket costs that come with the cheaper plans. And while the new law limits an individual’s annual out-of-pocket costs to $6,350, for someone making less than $20,000 a year, that’s pretty steep.
What most of the people we talked to didn’t know is that in addition to the subsidy to help pay their premiums there’s another subsidy, also income based, that reduces out-of-pocket costs, but– and this is important– only if you buy a silver plan. [click to continue reading...]
It took a while, but by now it seems like people are aware that they might be eligible for significant subsidies to help cover the cost of premiums under Obamacare. For most people, the way these subsidies are calculated is a mystery, and usually that’s fine– when you shop for coverage on healthcare.gov it will just tell you, or you can use a tool like the Kaiser Family Foundation’s subsidy calculator to see what you’d pay for coverage.
But lately we’ve been getting some questions that are a little more complicated. Some young people are wondering why they don’t get a subsidy, even though their income should be well below the eligibility threshold. Others are wondering why people with the same income are getting vastly different subsidies. If you want to know the answer to these questions, you need to know how the subsidy works. And warning: there will be math. [click to continue reading...]
After a disastrous first month for the Obamacare marketplaces, November wasn’t looking much better: the federal marketplace is still frustrating most users, insurers are sending cancelation notices, and enrollment on the exchanges has been much lower than expected. But just in time for Thanksgiving (and potentially awkward debates with family members), we’re starting to see some good news. Even without a working website, many people have learned they’re eligible for Medicaid, thanks to the expansion. Also, remember that some states chose to run their own insurance marketplaces, instead of having the federal government do it– and in states where the website is working, Obamacare is working too. [click to continue reading...]
Even if you follow the news pretty closely, you could be forgiven for not knowing what’s going on with the health insurance cancellation story. Last week the House voted on a bill to extend canceled policies, the Senate has proposed two different bills on the same subject, and the Obama administration announced that it was pursuing an “administrative fix” to allow some canceled plans to continue, but some state regulators have already rejected it.
If you’re confused, don’t worry: here’s a guide to Congress and the White House’s response to health plan cancelations. [click to continue reading...]
Lela Petersen of Flagler, Colorado. Insurance premiums for her and her husband will be but in half under Obamacare.
Lately there’s been a lot of talk about how there will be new “winners and losers” under Obamacare. And it’s certainly true that some people will be better or worse off than they were before– as New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait writes:
Banning insurance companies from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions necessarily bans them from discriminating in favor of people without preexisting conditions.
When it’s working, there will be many more winners than losers under the new law. As many as 15 million people could qualify for free coverage under Medicaid (depending on how many states expand), and up to 7 million others will be eligible for free coverage from private insurers on the Obamacare marketplaces, thanks to federal subsidies. Millions more who don’t qualify for free coverage will still be able to buy plans for much less than they’re paying now, and many people with pre-existing conditions will be able to purchase coverage for the first time. (For comparison’s sake, if you add up all the people who purchased their own insurance before Obamacare, it only comes to about 15 million people.)
But with healthcare.gov still being fixed, most of the media’s attention has been on Obamacare’s “losers”– the people who will be paying more. It’s worth remembering though, that there’s an enormous difference in what it means to be a “loser” under the old system and a “loser” under Obamacare.
By now you’ve probably seen a bunch of news reports about people who have received cancellation notices from their insurers, and are finding that new policies will cost much more than their old plans. What you may not know, since the follow-up stories have received much less attention, is that many of these reports have turned out to be wrong. Under closer examination, most of the people we’ve seen profiled will actually benefit from the Affordable Care Act, with cheaper, better coverage.
It’s not just conservative media like Fox News that’s getting it wrong–mainstream news organizations like NBC and CBS have filed incomplete and inaccurate reports as well. The coverage has been so bad that MSNBC host Chris Hayes put together a guide with three questions viewers can ask to figure out if a story might be misleading. They’re definitely helpful, but we’ve found some bogus stories can still sneak through, so we’re adding a couple guidelines of our own. [click to continue reading...]
“If you like your current health insurance, you can keep it.” Everyone remembers President Obama making that promise while he stumped for health reform, yet according to a report from NBC News, “millions of Americans are getting or are about to get cancellation letters for their health insurance under Obamacare [...] and the Obama administration has known that for at least three years.” People who are losing coverage, says NBC, will be “forced to buy pricier new policies.”
Now as New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait points out that this story involves two very different assumptions:
That it was misleading to say that everyone that liked their health insurance could keep it.
That it’s unfair that some people have to give up their current plans and pay more for new coverage.
The NBC News report is mostly right on the first part. But it’s the second part– the question of fairness– that has people outraged, and it’s that part that NBC and other media outlets have gotten wrong. [click to continue reading...]
Still, much of the responsibility for the failure of the site rests with the Obama administration, who repeatedly said it would be ready to go by October 1. (This wasn’t a lie– they seemed as surprised as anyone that the site had such serious problems.) Looking back, it’s clear that the administration made a number of management problems and questionable decisions that made the failure of the launch almost inevitable. [click to continue reading...]
It’s a fact of life among software developers that most projects– especially big, complex ones– will have problems when they’re launched. One analysis found that over the past 10 years, 94% of software projects that cost over $10 million were either over budget, behind schedule, didn’t meet user expectations, or simply didn’t work and were abandoned or restarted from scratch. The trick is to to be able to fail smart (or at least without catastrophe)– so that the inevitable problems are the “glitches” everyone expected with the launch of the Obamacare websites, and not the total disaster we’ve seen.
In Part 2 of our series on who broke the Obamacare exchanges, we look at why the way government agencies typically approach big technology projects, like the exchanges, makes disastrous failures much more likely. [click to continue reading...]