Millions of Americans must sign up for healthcare or face fees from the Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare. October 1, 2013 marked the first day of a nationwide effort to provide health insurance for people who did not have coverage.
But with the launch of this new health care system and the shutdown of the government, many are left confused and wondering what Obamacare actually means for them.
“Most people who are receiving insurance through their employer will continue to get insurance through their employer,” said Queens University Adjunct Health Professor, Dr. Don Jonas. “The difference will be for those people who haven’t had access in the market before. So those people who may have a preexisting condition or were denied coverage previously, starting on January 1st they cannot be denied.”
Under Obamacare, people who do not have health insurance through their employer, visit HealthCare.gov, create accounts and search and sign up for your health insurance. On the site, visitors are able to log in and search against competing companies to find the insurance that best fits their needs and budget.
You have until March 31st to sign up and if you don’t, you face a penalty of $95 per adult or 1% of annual income, whichever is higher.
On launch day the system was overwhelmed with people and many were not able to log on. But President Barack Obama told NPR that night that he anticipated those types of glitches for the first days, weeks and even months.
The exchange is designed to allow people to shop for health insurance and compare prices.
“The idea for the exchange was that it would be a place not unlike Amazon.com or another place you go to shop to get a variety of different prices for something you want to purchase,” said Jonas. “The challenge that we have in the state of North Carolina, unlike most other states, is that we have very few insurance companies participating in the exchange and offering policies.”
That means, less options for people to choose from which ultimately means higher prices.
The Obamacare debate has become a nationwide issue even sparking a government shutdown. Republicans in the House have been debating Democrats in the Senate over funding the bill. Because the two houses could not come to an agreement, the government closed its doors.
“We’ve spent an awful lot of time in our country...debating over is this the right way to provide health insurance to people in America,” said Jonas. “You’ve got people on both sides of the aisle - reasonable people can disagree of whether this is the way to expand insurance.”