Highlights from Issues & Ale: The Affordable Care Act

Nov 22, 2013

Earlier this week we hosted an Issues & Ale event on the Affordable Care Act, and almost 150 people attended.

For everyone who was not able to attend, here are some of the main takeaways from the panel discussion with Marianne Udow-Phillips, the Director of the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation, Don Hazaert, the Director of Michigan Consumers for Healthcare, and Melissa Anders, a statewide business reporter with the MLive media group in Lansing.

What should people understand about the Affordable Care Act?

People should understand first of all that the Affordable Care Act is not a website, nor is it a "catchall for everyone's anxieties about health care," according to Hazaert, as many people have concerns about health care that have nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act. It is a law.

“This law is a law that is, in some ways, an incremental change to health care. It’s building on the existing non-system,” said Udow-Phillips. “We have a complicated and convoluted current system of health care, the law doesn’t fix that.”

Instead, it is designed to fill in the gaps, not fix it. Under the Affordable Care Act, more people will get coverage, but there will be people who end up paying more.

Also, do not wait until the website is fixed to start thinking about health care.

“There’s lots of information out there right now to help you understand what your choices are,” said Anders. “You actually can go on the website . . . and click on a link that will show you what the plans are in Washtenaw County, or wherever you’re from, and will tell you what the prices are and what you might be eligible for.”

The health plans themselves also have good websites that allow you to compare information.

Can you keep your current health care if you like it?

There has been a lot of confusion over this. Ultimately, it is up to your state insurance commissioner to decide how to implement the policy change. In Michigan, we are still waiting to hear back from our state insurance commissioner about this.

It is also up to the insurance companies. So even if the commissioner approves, individual insurance companies can still decide whether or not to extend their plans.

People on Medicare will see no change under the Affordable Care Act. Employer plans will also stay mostly the same.

The big changes will be in the individual market.

“People are paying an enormous amount right now for very bad coverage, and people are very unhappy,” said Udow-Phillips. “We did a survey last year of citizens in Michigan, and people who had coverage that they bought themselves through the individual market, 44% of them said they were happy with their coverage.”

That is lower than people with any other type of health care. Under the Affordable Care Act, more people in the individual market will get better coverage for less.

Who still won't be covered?

Undocumented immigrants will not be receiving any coverage under this law. In fact, they were purposely excluded.

Additionally, people who are exempt from penalties may not have insurance, or people may choose to pay the penalties rather than get insurance.

There are a number of other circumstances which allow for exemptions. People who cannot afford insurance, people in prison, and people who cannot have health care due to their religious beliefs will be eligible for waivers.

To hear the full discussion and the Q & A session that followed, click the audio above.