- Policy & Research
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Aug. 6, 2012
Kansas Insurance Commissioner answers frequently asked questions about the Affordable Care Act, the national health reform law passed in 2010 and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court this summer.
This is the second in a four-part series of questions and answers.
Q: What parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will go into effect in 2014?
A: In 2014, the ACA requires insurance companies to provide coverage to anyone who applies –you can’t be turned down because you have health problems. The premium you pay will be based only on your age, whether you use tobacco products, where you live, and whether you are buying insurance just for yourself or for your family. Rates will not be based on your health condition or gender. Also, you will be able to buy insurance online through a health insurance exchange.
Q: How will a health insurance exchange work?
A: The online exchange will be similar to a shopping website. Consumers can compare insurance plans that are available based on where they live and their income. Tax credits and other payment help will be available to individuals and families who qualify and want to use the assistance. Lower income consumers will be directed to Medicaid services. There will be people to assist you if you don’t have a computer.
Q: Who will run the exchange, the state or the federal government?
A: The ACA gives each state the option to set up an exchange. So far, 16 states have indicated they want to run their own exchange. In a state exchange, many decisions are left up to the state. The law requires the federal government to set up an exchange for any state that chooses not to. The federal government will either run that exchange entirely or will form a partnership with the state so the state can operate some parts of the exchange. In Kansas, I hope to enter into a partnership so our insurance department can continue to approve insurance rates, as well as approve policies offered on the exchange, and assist consumers with their complaints.-
Q: I’m a veteran. What will happen to my health care coverage?
A: Nothing. The law does not make any changes to VA benefits.
Q: I hear people say the health law kills jobs? Is that right?
A: No one is certain about the future, but many have made predictions. A California study said that the law will create more than 100,000 jobs in California alone, since more people will be able to access health care services. An Urban Institute study said there would be no noticeable effect on net levels of employment, since most companies are not affected, and gains and losses in the economy will even out. A Heritage Foundation study said 700,000 jobs will be lost, primarily those workers making close to minimum wage. The Congressional Budget Office says that about 800,000 people could take advantage of the law’s provisions for health care coverage and retire earlier, go to part-time work, or start their own small business.
Employment decisions are made by business owners. The impact of the ACA will be difficult to measure for many years. I believe the Urban Institute conclusions to be the most likely – some jobs will be created, some will be lost.
Q: I don’t want to take a handout (subsidy) from the government. What can I do?
A: You may continue to buy an individual policy as you have in the past. If you don’t want government assistance, you do not have to accept it. You can simply buy a health insurance policy that meets your needs, as long as the policy meets the minimum benefits that are required.
—Sandy Praeger, a Republican, is the Kansas commissioner of insurance.