Healthcare professionals are likely to find themselves on the front lines of the debate surrounding the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The Healthcare.gov rollout has been fraught with technical errors, glitches, and apparent political snags at every turn. Many Americans are discovering that their current healthcare plans are not acceptable under Affordable Care Act guidelines, leaving them feeling betrayed at the thought that they will not be able to keep their plan. Doctors, nurses, and accountants working with medical centers may find themselves helping patients navigate the deluge of often-conflicting information surrounding the ACA.
Existing healthcare plans may fail to meet Affordable Care Act requirements for a variety of reasons. The ACA mandates a specific minimum level of coverage, which many plans fail to meet. Similarly, the ACA eliminates the ability of insurers to disqualify applicants and policy holders due to preexisting conditions, which is commonplace with pre-ACA health insurance plans. Other plan features, such as low premiums with staggering out-of-pocket minimums, may also violate ACA standards. Early promises that Americans would be able to keep their health plans if they like them seem to have fallen by the wayside in an attempt to overhaul both the costs and quality of insurance plans in the country.
The president announced an ACA change in November designed to help those with plans that do not offer adequate protection or have restrictions that the ACA does not allow to keep their plans for at least a year longer. This is designed to help insurance companies tailor existing policies to meet the requirements of the program over time instead of canceling policies outright. This stopgap measure is likely a political move and may have little effect on the healthcare market as a whole during the transition period until Obamacare health plan options take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
Healthcare professionals are likely to encounter patients who have received communications from their insurance companies encouraging them to lobby against the Affordable Care Act by notifying them of potential plan cancellation. In such cases, nurses and doctors should verify the current expiration date by contacting the insurance company directly. Healthcare professionals are rarely trained personal income accountants or insurance agents, and it is best to avoid making recommendations in this arena. Obamacare health plan options may be purchased through state or federal exchanges as well as insurance agents, and healthcare workers should direct patients with questions to those resources.
The healthcare industry is experiencing a staggering period of change during the transition period before the largest consumer-facing aspects of the Affordable Care Act take effect. Nurses, doctors, and others working with hospitals and care centers should strive to ensure they get the best information and try to avoid the political firestorm raging around these changes. Direct contact with patients and insurance companies can help alleviate the immediate coverage issues that may arise during this time, but healthcare professionals should advise those confused about policy cancellation or the politics of Obamacare to seek a trusted financial advisor.
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