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affordable care act

Today is the day.

If you don’t sign up for health-care coverage by midnight tonight, you might not be able to get coverage until next year. And if you choose not to get covered, you might get dinged on your 2014 taxes –also known as the "individual shared responsibility payment."

If you can afford health coverage, but you decide to do without, here's how much you might have to pay:

  • In 2014, it's 1% of your yearly income or $95 per person, whichever is higher.
  • In 2015, it’s 2% of your yearly income or $325 per person, whichever is higher.
  • In 2016 and later years, it’s 2.5% of your yearly income or $695 per person, whichever is higher. 
  • After 2016, the fee is adjusted for inflation.

To avoid any potential fees, you need to sign up by tonight.

There are exceptions.

Screen shot from healthcare.gov

Thousands of Michiganders are expected to be among the final crush of Americans trying to sign up for health insurance by Monday Obamacare deadline.

After Monday, people without health insurance coverage may face a penalty on their federal taxes.

Andy Hetzel is a spokesman for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan.      He says the state’s largest insurer has been getting 25,000 calls a week from people looking for help getting health care coverage.

“We’re seeing significant volumes of people reaching out to us now,” says Hetzel, “The people who are reaching out to us are a fraction of the marketplace.”

Hetzel says walking people through the sign-up, including assessing their eligibility for a federal subsidy to help pay their insurance premium, can take a while.   

Hetzel notes that many Michiganders will have the option of signing up for expanded Medicaid coverage starting next month.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Monday’s Obamacare deadline is pushing many Michiganders to try to sign up for new health insurance plans. But that may overwhelm the groups trying to help get them signed up.

Computer glitches and telephone delays marred the opening of the enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act last fall. The surge of demand now, as Monday’s deadline looms, threatens to overwhelm the system again.

When you think "Michigan," you think tourism, right? Or, for some, maybe it's Tim Allen telling you about the state's open roads, fall colors, glistening lakes. Tourism means big business for the mitten. We look at how the changing climate might impact what more than 4.4 million out-of-state visitors will be able to do and enjoy when they come to the Great Lakes State. 

 Then, we spoke with Michigan author Laura Kasischke about her latest novel, Mind of Winter. And Daniel Howes joined us for our weekly check-in, to discuss Mary Barra and the ghost of GM's past. Also, women are underrepresented in the  STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, but there is one University of Michigan student group trying to change that. And, we are one week into spring but still getting snow. Meterologist Jim Maczko spoke with us about when we can expect warmer weather.  First on the show, we are closing in on the deadline to purchase health insurance or face a penalty under the Affordable Care Act. 

Erin Knott is the Michigan Director of Enroll America, a non-profit, non-partisan group trying to get people enrolled in health insurance.

Erin joined us today to discuss the upcoming deadline. 

The deadline for the Affordable Care Act's open enrollment period is January 31.
user striatic / Flickr

We are closing in on the deadline to purchase health insurance or face a penalty under the Affordable Care Act. Erin Knott is the Michigan Director of Enroll America, a non-profit, non-partisan group trying to get people enrolled in health insurance.

Erin joined us today to discuss the upcoming deadline. 

Listen to the full interview above.

March 31 looms ever closer.

That's the deadline for you to get health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. After then, you'll only be able to get insurance on the health care exchange when there's a big change in your life: a birth, divorce, death, losing your employer-sponsored insurance, or moving to another state.

The latest numbers show 144,586 people in Michigan have gotten health insurance under Obamacare.

And, with more people covered, doctors and hospitals are expecting an uptick in treating one of our state's biggest health challenges: obesity. 

We're joined by Heather Howard, program director of the State Health Reform Assistance Network. 

Listen to the full interview above.

YouTube screenshot

There is little question that the Affordable Care Act is a game-changer for Americans who had jobs where no insurance was available from their employer, or who had pre-existing conditions, or whose incomes did not qualify them for Medicaid, or who could not afford to buy health coverage.

But as the health care picture brightens for these Americans, there are others who are, frankly, sick of the ACA and the upheaval it has brought to their lives.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes took a look at what the ACA has meant for a typical small Michigan business.

Howes joined us today and we asked him to tell us about American Gear & Engineering. It’s the company he profiled in today's column of the Detroit News.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michiganders have less than four weeks to find a health insurance plan.

After March 31st, people who have not signed up for health insurance will have to pay a federal tax penalty.

Gia Carroll is a health navigator with the Hamilton Community Health Network in Genesee County.    She says money is a bigger issue than health care coverage for many people she works with.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

In one month, more than 300,000 people are expected to begin signing up for expanded Medicaid coverage in Michigan. The Medicaid expansion is part of the federal Affordable Care Act.

"Healthy Michigan" would cover nearly everyone, under the age of 65, with an income up to 133% of the federal poverty limit. That translates to individuals making about $15,000 and families of four making less than $32,000.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Opponents of Obamacare turned out for a meeting in Jackson today.  

Congressman Tim Walberg is holding a series of town hall meetings this week on the Affordable Care Act.

The Republican congressman is showcasing small business owners and patients who say they are paying more for health insurance under Obamacare.

The latest figures from the government tell us that nearly 3.3 million Americans have signed up so far for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges. 

Officials are pointing to a surge in young people who are enrolling: The percentage of people age 18-34 who enrolled grew by three percentage points last month over the previous three months. 

Attracting these healthy young people to sign up is critical to the success of the Affordable Care Act, because they offset the costs of covering the older folks who are likely less healthy. 

So just what is the key to getting young Americans under the Obamacare tent?

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Obama Administration says Michiganders are signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act at a faster pace than expected. But time is running out.

Michiganders have until the end of March to sign up for health insurance or face a federal tax penalty.

The Obama administration says through the end of January, about 112,000 Michiganders have picked insurance plans using the federal health care website.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The uninsured and others have time to sign up for private insurance under the federal health care law without facing a tax penalty.

But one Michigan insurance executive doubts much new enrollment will occur before the March 31 deadline and cautions that the net number of people buying their own insurance in Michigan could stay flat this year.

Courtesy of Children First

It's been a little over two weeks since the Affordable Care Act officially kicked in.

How many people have been able to enroll? How many are getting financial assistance to help pay for their plan? And what deadlines do we need to be aware of?

Joining us once more is Don Hazaert, director of Michigan Consumers for Healthcare, one of Michigan's four navigator agencies for the ACA.

Listen to full interview above. 

The deadline for the Affordable Care Act's open enrollment period is January 31.
user striatic / Flickr

As the Affordable Care Act rolled out, there's been plenty of focus on physical health, pre-existing conditions. But we haven't heard too much about what the ACA means for treating Mental Illness.

And that is something that is a growing concern as mentally ill people fill Michigan's jails and prisons. What could it mean to these people to be able to obtain treatment?

Joining us is Ben Robinson. He's the President and CEO of Rose Hill Center in Holly, in Oakland County. They offer residential treatment for adults with mental illness. He's also on the Executive Board of the Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards.

Slow enrollment for Obamacare in rural counties

Jan 6, 2014

People in rural areas trying to enroll for health insurance as part of the new Affordable Care Act can face special challenges. Registration must happen online, and many people in Michigan’s rural counties do not have a home computer or access to the Internet. 

cswe.org

Social workers in Michigan are starting to wear many hats as health-care reform is implemented.

The expansion of Medicaid and the establishment of the state Health Insurance Exchange is expanding health-care coverage to hundreds of thousands of Michiganders.

Robert Sheehan is the executive director of the Community Mental Health Authority of Clinton, Eaton, and Ingham Counties.

He says all the changes healthcare are broadening the scope of social workers.

A computer screen showing HealthCare.gov in action.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It was October 1 when the Healthcare.gov website opened for business.The rocky launch of the public portal to the Affordable Care Act has consumed much of the nation's attention and news space.

The December 23 enrollment deadline is at hand. That's when you have to have signed up if you want a policy by January 1.

We wanted to see if the consumer experience with Healthcare.gov has improved - see what problems remain - and find out how many of us have been able to complete applications and actually select a marketplace plan.

Don Hazaert joined us today. He's the director of Michigan Consumers for Healthcare. It's one of four navigator agencies in our state for the Affordable Care Act.

You can find the agencies here.

Hazaert said, no question, there have been significant frustrations with the enrollment process, but that has changed since December 1. The Healthcare.gov website is working much better. Hazaert says those people who have signed up since December 1 have had a much smoother experience, especially those signing up with a new account.

Navigators are still trying to work with those individuals who started the process prior to December 1. We asked so of our listeners about their experiences with signing up for health care coverage.

Tom is 57 and lives in Ann Arbor and has been out of work for a year and a half. He's been paying for health insurance out of pocket for himself and his wife. It's been very expensive. His insurance company helped him sign up on Healthcare.gov. He received a subsidy to help him cover his costs. His online experience was good. 

"The price of the new policy is about half the price of the old policy and the deductible is about half as well, so I'm in a win-win situation as far as that's concerned," said Tom.

Diane Kay is 33-year-old attorney from Brighton, MI. She had a job change and hasn't been insured since 2007. She has a pre-existing condition so insurance companies wouldn't cover her, or it was prohibitively expensive. She's still paying back a lot of debt she incurred from a stay in the hospital. She got insurance through Healthcare.gov in November and said the process was not difficult.

Sasha Acker is 22-year-old social worker from Kalamazoo. She works part-time and doesn't get insurance from the company she works for. She had an extremely frustrating experience with Healthcare.gov, but was eventually able to sign up for coverage. She's excited to have insurance but has not been able to log back in to make her first payment. 

"I called in about six times, and they told me basically that since they made a bunch of upgrades to the website some of the accounts got corrupted and people can't access them anymore. Nobody has a solution for me," said Acker.

Don Hazaert with Michigan Consumers for Healthcare says Acker will need to make a payment before the start of the New Year to get her insurance.

He says her frustration is most likely with the 800 number she's calling and that he suggests she get in touch with a health care navigator in Michigan.

Hazaert says in 2014, they look forward to moving the conversation away from a troubled website to the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.

*This story was informed by the Public Insight Network.

A computer screen showing HealthCare.gov in action.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

More Michiganders are signing up for health insurance through the federal Affordable Care Act.

Problems with the federal website made it difficult for people to sign up initially.

In Michigan, fewer than 1400 people signed up in October. But after a website overhaul, more than five thousand Michiganders completed the process in November.

Screen shot from healthcare.gov

President Obama said that glitches in the healthcare.gov website would be fixed by November 30. Now that that deadline has passed, we wanted to check back in to see how the website was running.

I tried to apply for coverage on October 1, the day the marketplace opened, which didn't work

Though I checked back several times in the last two months, there were still a lot of glitches. I tried accessing my old application yesterday, and still there were problems. The website hung when I was trying to choose the amount of tax credit I apply toward my coverage.

Let's start over, shall we?

NPR reported that a lot of people who weren't able to shop for coverage are now able to because of a "reset button."

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A proposal to prohibit basic health insurance plans from covering abortions goes before the Board of State Canvassers tomorrow.   Women would be able to buy separate abortion riders for their health insurance policies.

The Board is expected to certify that a petition drive has enough signatures to put the matter before the legislature.

Genevieve Marnon is with Right to Life of Michigan.   She says women should pay for abortion coverage themselves.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michiganders at risk of losing their health insurance because of Obamacare may be getting a reprieve.

It’s estimated that more than 200,000 policies in Michigan could be at risk of being canceled because the policies don’t meet the minimum standards of the Affordable Care Act.

After a public outcry, President Obama asked the states and insurance companies to keep those policies in effect for another year. 

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.

healthcare.gov / YouTube

It’s been more than a month since the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplace has open, and to say the rollout has been problematic would be an understatement.

With the glitch-ridden healthcare.gov website, and the natural confusion that comes with breaking new ground, it’s no wonder that many insurance-seekers don’t even know where to begin to find health insurance under the ACA.

Enter Don Hazaert, the director of Michigan Consumers for Healthcare. MCH is one of four navigator agencies in Michigan for Obamacare.

But what does a navigator do? What can’t they do? And where do Michiganders stand with their healthcare?

Hazaert met with us in the studio, to discuss how those looking for coverage for Michigan actually do it.

For more information, visit enrollmichigan.com or any of the websites below:

consumersforhealthcare.org

communitybridgesihc.com

accesscommunity.org

aihfs.org

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - State legislators are divided over a plan requiring Michigan insurers to tell policyholders the impact of the federal health care law on their premiums.

Legislation awaiting a vote in the Republican-led House would require that insurers give annual estimates of the overhaul's effect on premiums.

Republican Rep. Mike Shirkey of Clark Lake says people deserve to know the law's ramifications. He also wants to insulate insurers from being blamed for premium increases.

But Democrats say the bill is nothing more than a political ploy.

use: dougwoods / Flickr

Yesterday, the Department of Heath and Human Services released a detailed enrollment report on the number of people who looked for insurance coverage from October 1 to November 2.

The number of people who enrolled in coverage is low.

According to the report, 23,987 applications were completed in Michigan. Of those completed applications, only 1,329 enrolled in a plan.

What's the difference between 'completed application' and 'enrollment?'

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

1,300 Michiganders signed up for Obamacare in the first month of online exchange

"Health officials released a report yesterday showing that only about 1,300 Michigan residents managed to sign up for coverage through the troubled federally-run state health care exchange in its first month of operation," the Associated Press reports.

Michigan Supreme Court names Court of Claims judges

"The Michigan Supreme Court has moved quickly to name judges to serve on a revamped Court of Claims to hear major lawsuits filed against the state. A new law moves the Court of Claims from the Ingham County Circuit and makes it part of the Michigan Court of Appeals. The state Supreme Court tapped two judges originally appointed by a Republican governor and two appointed by a Democrat to serve on the new Court of Claims," Rick Pluta reports.

Senate approves bill for pot sales at pharmacies

"The state Senate has approved a bill that could clear the way for pharmacies to sell medical marijuana in Michigan. That’s if the federal government decides to regulate cannabis as a prescription drug," Jake Neher reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan officials hope to know by Christmas whether the Obama administration has accepted the state’s plan for extending Medicaid coverage to thousands of working poor people.

The state formally submitted its proposal to the federal government today.

The state wants waivers from the usual Medicaid rules so it can charge co-pays, set up health care savings accounts, and use financial incentives to encourage patients to adopt healthy behaviors.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

More than 436,000 Michigan residents will qualify for tax subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, according to a report released today from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

According to the study, 17 million Americans are eligible for tax credits that will lower their cost of coverage.

Most of those eligible folks come from states with high populations: Texas, for instance, is estimated to have over 2 million residents who would qualify for subsidies.

California’s not far behind with $1.9 million.

Michigan is home to five national parks and there are lots of open spaces where you can camp, hunt and enjoy nature. But, yesterday, an Oklahoma Senator recently said two Michigan landmarks are a prime example of wasteful federal spending. We found out what’s behind the senator’s reasoning and whether there is some truth to his concerns.

 Then, we took a look at a new proposal by a group of Democrats in the Michigan House that would require the state to determine the actual cost of educating a public school student in Michigan. That got us thinking, shouldn't we already know?  We also spoke with Michigan writer Donald Lystra about his new collection of short stories. And, Ann Arbor now has its own Death Café, organized by funeral home guide Merilynne Rush. She stopped by to tell us more about it. But, first on the show, ever since the government unveiled its healthcare.gov website, the headlines surrounding the Affordable Care Act have been about the problems with the way the site was designed and the extreme difficulty Americans have had in getting on the exchange. But what about the Americans that don't need healthcare.gov? The ones who already have plans? To those consumers, President Obama has been saying this since 2009:

“If you like your current insurance, you will keep your current insurance. No government takeover, nobody’s changing what you’ve got if you’re happy with it.”

So why, then, then are some 2 million Americans - about 140,000 in Michigan - getting cancelation letters from their insurers over the past couple of weeks?

Marianne Udow-Phillips directs the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation, a non-profit partnership between the University of Michigan and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan. She joined us today.

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