State Office of Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler delivered a mythbusting speech about the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday, telling a lunchtime audience that changes set to take place in health care in 2014 are much better than what the current health care system has to offer.
Kreidler’s audience on Wednesday were about 30 members of Tumwater Rotary, a gathering of business owners and guests who also had questions about the new health care plan, sometimes referred to as “Obamacare.”
Kreidler wasted no time and addressed the myths from the start:
• Does the Affordable Care Act represent a federal government takeover of health care?
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It does not, Kreidler said, because the Affordable Care Act is built on the existing private health insurance system. He also said 78 percent of Americans aren’t going to see much of any change in their health care because they are already covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or through their employer – either a large, self-insured or government one.
• Are health care premiums going to increase 70 percent in the individual health care market?
Based on health care insurance rate filings with the state, that is not the case, Kreidler said. He said rates are about the same, or lower, with enhanced benefit coverage.
“We’re not seeing the kind of rate shock that was talked about,” he said.
• If the status quo is working, why mess with health care?
It is not working, he said, particularly if you buy health insurance yourself or are a small employer – two groups beset with higher premiums and cuts to coverage.
“Double-digit increases have been the norm,” he said.
He also said that $1 billion per year is spent on uncompensated care in the state, either charity care or bad debt, and that about 1.1 million residents in the state don’t have health insurance. In Thurston County, $34 million per year is spent on uncompensated care and about 31,000 residents don’t have health insurance, he said.
“The system wasn’t sustainable,” Kreidler said.
In response to one audience member question, Kreidler said that those who can’t afford health insurance, even with financial assistance, are not required to have it and would be exempt from the penalty. However, financial assistance will be available, for example, to a family of four earning up to $94,200 per year.
The penalty for those who don’t get health insurance starts at $95 per year, per individual in the first year, he said.
The Internal Revenue Service will handle that penalty, Kreidler said, either by deducting the amount from an income tax return or adding it to what is owed.
He thinks the penalty is too low and some will pay that rather than buy insurance, but the penalty goes up over time, Kreidler said.
He acknowledged the system isn’t perfect, but he said the Affordable Care Act is here to stay and will likely change over time, similar to changes that have been made to Social Security and Medicare throughout the years, he said.
“Americans deserve better and clearly better is what we’re going to be getting with the Affordable Care Act,” Kreidler said.
For more on the health care changes, go to: insurance.wa.gov/current-issues-reform/health-care-reform/
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 firstname.lastname@example.org/bizblog