Few laws have generated as much opposition–or confusion—as the Affordable Care Act.
Since its stormy passage in 2010, polls have consistently shown that many Americans have major misconceptions about what the health-care law does, including the false notion that it replaces private coverage with a government-run insurance system.
Americans even have different opinions of the law, depending on what it’s called. According to a recent CNBC poll, more people are opposed to “Obamacare” than the Affordable Care Act—even though they are one and the same.
The health-care law’s supporters hope the confusion and hostility will begin to subside now that the exchanges, which launched October 1, are open for business. That said, according to a recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, about half of those surveyed said that they didn’t have enough information about the law to know how it would affect their families.
Don Silver, an attorney, was once one of those consumers who was desperate for more clarity. So he read through all 900-plus pages of the law (twice!)—plus around 15,000 pages of health-care regulations—and then wrote “The Best ObamaCare Guide.” Given his expertise, we asked Silver to separate fact from fiction—as well as share some little-known knowledge about the law.
LearnVest: What does the Affordable Care Act do?
Don Silver: The big picture is that the Affordable Care Act extends coverage, either through private insurance or Medicaid. It’s important to point out, however, that the law does not guarantee access to care. It also does not control medical costs. There is no real rate control on the federal level, although there is some in certain states.
Some new benefits that affect everyone: You cannot be turned down for insurance due to preexisting conditions, and there are also no longer any annual or lifetime caps on coverage. Additionally, 10 essential health benefits—including doctor visits, maternity care and hospital visits—are now required coverage.
Young adults can now stay on their parents’ plans until age 26, but there can be some downsides if kids live in a different area than their parents, in which case medical care might be all out of network and out of pocket. Women will also now pay the same premium rate for coverage as men, which has not been the case in most states. And the unhealthy will pay the same amount as those who are healthy, which also has not generally been the case.
The employer mandate—employers with 50 or more full-time and full-time-equivalent employees now have to provide insurance or pay a penalty—is also new, but that’s been delayed for one year.
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