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Happy Birthday, Obamacare

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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law in 2010, but for most of us, it officially was born on Oct. 1, 2013, when Americans could actually begin to sign up for health coverage. In honor of the one-year anniversary, let’s take a look back at its tumultuous first year.

Obamacare had a rough start even before the HealthCare​.gov website went live on Oct. 1, 2013. What with court challenges and congressional debates, it almost didn’t get off the ground. But it did. Then the website went live, and the challenges encountered by those who tried and failed to get through the flawed website dominated the news in the first couple of months of HealthCare.gov’s existence.

Eventually, the failure of the Affordable Care Act website would claim the career of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who resigned in April.

So how did ACA do in its first year? For one thing, it has meant far more Americans have health insurance. Gallup reported in July that the uninsured rate for adult Americans of 13.4 percent was the lowest it had recorded since it began measuring the rate in 2008.

Hospitals are spending less on uncompensated care. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said hospitals will see a drop in so-called charity care of $5.7 billion in 2014. This is a 16 percent decrease in what they would have spent without ACA.

More insurers are entering the exchange marketplace. According to preliminary data compiled by HHS, there will be a 25 percent increase in health insurance issuers next year, nationwide. Four of the 36 states in the federal marketplace will have at least twice as many insurers next year compared to 2014. Insurers who sat out 2014 to see what would happen in the exchange market have decided to take the plunge for 2015. “Some of the nation’s largest issuers will be offering coverage for the first time in more than a dozen states,” HHS said.

What’s ahead for ACA? The biggest issue will be seeing how the online sign-up works when the next open enrollment season begins Nov. 15. In addition to enrolling new participants, those who bought coverage last year but want to make changes will need to be re-enrolled. The online Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace will be open for employers with 50 or fewer full-time-equivalent employees. Tax penalties for those who were required to obtain coverage but didn’t do so will go into effect with the federal income tax filing season in early 2015.

Health insurance advisors are gearing up for the next enrollment season, hoping for the best as they work on behalf of their clients. InsuranceNewsNet Magazine’s October issue outlines the issues in more detail, with health insurance advisors and health care experts weighing in on the next enrollment season.

 

 

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Susan Rupe is assistant editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Connect with Susan →

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