For years I have heard, “Time heals all wounds.”
If that is true, the prospects for enrollment in Obamacare approved plans, for 2015 may be a little brighter.
There are several variables that make the prospect look dismal. In fact they are so problematic that President Obama changed the start of the Annual Enrollment from October 15 to November 15 (after the national election.) Apparently, he did not want the American public to know how much their mandated health insurance was going to cost them before the election.
If that cowardly political decision from Mr. Obama makes you angry, you are not the only one. Unfortunately, congress ceded their authority over the election periods to the non-elected Secretary of Health and Human Services, who answers only to the president. Baring impeachment processes, which would last until after the election, there is no way to change a decision once Barack has made it.
The result is that Americans will not know the actual costs of health insurance until after they cast their votes for congress and there is nothing that Americans can do about it.
Having gotten that out of my system, let’s take a look at what will actually happen, in 2015, for Obamacare.
With the philosophy of “Give credit where credit is due,” I must admit that the White House has recognized that the computer problems they had in October and November have stunted enrollment for 2014. They have taken steps to avoid many of the problems they have had so far.
Hopefully, an extra year will give CMS the time they need to improve the system.
It is true that the computer exchange that CMS gave to Americans, over three years after Obamacare became law, was flawed. I believe the description of WW II soldiers, FUBAR, would be the closest description to Healthcare.gov in October and November of 2014. By the end of December, the White House was bragging that at least 80% of Americans who used its computer system, were able to enroll in a plan.
(Apparently, the White House feels that a 20% failure rate is acceptable.)
The good news is that the Department of HHS has changed companies to construct the federal exchange for 2015 plans. Hopefully they will learn from the mistakes they made for the National Open Election and build an enrollment exchange that actually works.
3RD PARTY ACCESS
In 2014, a handful of insurance companies were able to build, “by-passes” to Healthcare.gov. Although those “by-passes” did not allow people to avoid the federal website entirely if they wanted to claim a “subsidy,” they did allow Americans to pay for the policy they elected at the time they enrolled. They did not have to remember to call an insurance company, to wait on “hold” for several minutes so they could pay their premium.
Unfortunately, only a handful of insurance companies were able to make “by-pass” systems work. Most, at least here in Texas, required people to attempt to navigate Healthcare.gov from start to finish, if they wanted insurance coverage from them.
Rumor has it, that after the disastrous experience of the federal website during the National Open Enrollment, more insurance companies will be able to create direct portals for people who want to claim a federal subsidy to help pay their health insurance premiums in 2015.
RUMORED EXTENSION OF EXTENSION OF RIGHT TO KEEP PRE-OBAMACARE PLANS.
It is only a rumor, at this point, but a high official with HHS has hinted that the White House is considering an extension to Mr. Obama’s extension in December of 2013 to allow people to keep their existing health insurance, issued 2010 – 2013, for an extra 2 years.
We will not know if that is a real option or just a political teaser until later in the year. However, if the extension is extended through Mr. Obama’s presidency, it would mean that males and post-menopausal women, who have older policies that exclude maternity coverage, will not be forced to pay for insurance that they do not need.
There is one potential problem, if you elect to keep an older plan. The language of the PPACA states that Americans who do not have an Obamacare approved plan, with all of its mandates, will be subject to a penalty, to be paid with their tax returns.
All plans, with effective dates prior to January 1, 2014, do not have all of the Essential Benefit Plans. Those people who elect to keep a plan, with an effective date after March 23, 2010 but before January 1, 2014 would still be liable for Obamacare’s “Shared Responsibility Payment” unless Mr. Obama instructs HHS and IRS not to enforce that penalty for people who keep an older health insurance plan.