Last Tuesday, October 1st, marked the first day that you could begin shopping for health insurance exchanges to obtain coverage from competing private insurers under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.   While there are some disadvantages to Obamacare, which requires you to obtain health insurance coverage by the end of March, 2014, there are also many advantages for seniors, those with pre-existing conditions, business owners, and anyone currently uninsured.

To begin, one perk under Obamacare for seniors is that the coverage gap known as the donut hole for Medicare Part D will cease to exist after the year 2020.  Also, small business owners will receive tax credits in certain instances for providing health insurance to employees.  Modest income families will find tax credits to help pay for their insurance.  Finally, for those people who have disqualifying health issues who could not get health insurance of any kind because of a cancer scare, Parkinson’s, or some other pre-existing condition will now be able to get insurance at reasonable rates.  Young healthy people will no longer have the option of going uninsured, but their coverage will be inexpensive and the bankruptcy courts will have far less business.

There are hundreds of thousands of people in North Carolina who were previously uninsurable who will now be able to obtain health insurance under Obamacare.  However, our insurance premiums will be somewhat higher in North Carolina because our legislature did not opt-in to enroll about 600,000 additional NC residents into Medicaid at 100% federal cost and no cost to the State for 3 years.  Because of this legislative defiance, we will pay more for our health insurance this year than citizens in other states that opted-in. Instead, as insurance policy holders, we now have an increase in our insurance to pay for these potential Medicaid recipients who go to the emergency rooms to get their health care.

In addition to our state-specific increase as a result of the legislature opting out of enrolling in Medicaid at federal cost, everyone should expect to see an increase in their health insurance premiums, as premiums increase annually due to inflation when health insurance companies pass on the additional costs of care.  One advantage to Obamacare, however, is that this year they have gone up only 4%, which is far less than they have ever increased before (usually at a rate of 6-8%).

Just because North Carolina opted out of federal funding, however, does not mean that the Individual Mandate is not effective in North Carolina. The good news is that if you’re already covered by health insurance through an individual plan, if you’re a senior on Medicare, or if you’re insured through an employer plan, then you do not need to do anything further to comply with the enrollment deadline for Obamacare.  However, if you do not currently have insurance, then you need to sign up for it by December 15th in order to be covered by January 1st.  Open enrollment lasts until the end of March without a penalty.

Many people are not aware that these insurance exchanges actually occur on a website, which require access with a computer. The website for the exchanges, www.healthcare.gov, is the federal website and not North Carolina’s.  Select North Carolina to get the North Carolina exchange that is sponsored by the federal government. Be sure to  use this particular website, as there are lots of private websites that appear to be official where insurance agencies will get a commission for helping you sign up.  Another good resource is the North Carolina Department of Insurance website with a like called SHIIP; on your computer go to http://www.ncdoi.com/SHIIP/.

Hope this helps.   Visit with an experienced Elder Law attorney today. Contact W.G. Alexander & Associates for more information!

Attorney Bill Alexander discussed these issues and more this past Tuesday on W.G. Alexander & Associates’ radio program, “Asset Protection Today,” on TalkRadio 850 WPTK (AM). Be sure to listen every Tuesday morning from 9:00-10:00 AM.  To listen to this week’s show, please visit WPTF’s on demand show blog by clicking here.