Five keys things to know before Obamacare rolls out

Published 9:28 am Monday, August 26, 2013

You may not know this, but I’m one of the trained expert volunteers that work with the North Carolina Senior Health Insurance Information Program.

We answer questions about Medicare, Medicaid, Medicare Supplement insurance, and programs offering financial assistance to those who meet the financial qualifications of both the federal government and North Carolina.

If that sounds daunting, it is. No one knows all the answers to the hundreds of questions that are posed to us during our scheduled one-on-one sessions about what kind of coverage they should have, traditional Medicare or an Advantage Plan, and which Part-D prescription drug plans to take.

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In my most recent training class I had a lot of questions, but even our trainers didn’t have near enough answers. But to provide some information of which I am certain, here are five things about Obamacare that you may not have known, and not knowing puts you in plenty of good company.

1. Some of the Affordable Care Act Law is in effect. However, the Supreme Court gave states the right to decide whether to expand Medicaid, the state-and-federally funded program that covers the needy and disabled people. The majority of Obamacare’s main provisions take effect Jan. 1, 2014 and businesses with more than 50 employees, Jan. 2015.

2. Individuals will be required to have health insurance coverage as of Jan. 1, or pay an annual penalty of $95 for a single adult or 1 percent of total family income – whichever is greater.  That penalty will continue to go up every year for the next several years.

3. In states that opted to do so – North Carolina did not –  Medicaid will be expanded. Many uninsured people who meet the financial qualifications will be able to buy coverage using income-based tax credits. These tax credits, or subsidies, are reserved for people who can’t get health insurance through an employer and who don’t qualify for Medicaid, Medicare or military-based coverage.