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The Affordable Care Act: One year later

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article.

The second round of open enrollment begins next month. CREDIT: THINKSTOCK The second round of open enrollment begins next month.
CREDIT: THINKSTOCK

One year has passed since the Affordable Care Act became active. As the nation prepares for the second round of open enrollment in mid-November, few can argue that the ACA hasn’t changed the U.S. health care game.

According to a recent Washington Post report, over 7.3 million people bought into health plans through the marketplace last year. What’s more is that almost 8 million more signed up for Medicaid coverage. The same report indicates that the U.S. uninsured rate is the lowest it’s been in six years.

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Insurance companies have been particularly affected by the ACA. The marketplace is competitive, with companies that have the lowest monthly premiums appealing most to those shopping around for health care. According to a recent Huffington Post report, industry studies reveal that policyholders typically value lower premiums more than access to a wider network of doctors.

In addition, insurers that don’t comply with ACA standards are now sending out cancellation notices to thousands of consumers. The Washington Post reports that these policyholders can either change their plan with their current employer or purchase a new plan during open enrollment.

As a direct result of the ACA, businesses are tasked with complying with new federal mandates. For example, beginning next year, employers with over 100 employees are required to provide health insurance for their workers. If they don’t, the decision will be met with a federal penalty, according to a FOX Business report.

“The major undertonewe have seen is a fair amount of anxiety from people who are trying to understand what these changes mean for individuals and groups,” said Gary Taffet, founder of Reliance Insurance Group. “Certainly, the goal is to continue to deliver comprehensive health care services to a broader audience and to provide coverage at more affordable rates.”

According to Taffet, educating policyholders about all these changes is crucial. However, many brokers feel apprehensive when it comes to disseminating this information.

“High-quality brokers, who are the trusted advisors to public and private clients, must dedicate themselves to understanding the details of the new law, and to providing educational and compliance obligation information to their clients,” said Taffet.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the key features of the ACA are to improve quality, lower health care costs, protect consumers, and increase overall access to health care. Perhaps one of the best-known provisions of the initiative was that people could no longer be excluded from coverage due to a preexisting condition.

With these changes comes an expected period of adjustment. According to Taffet, both education and compliance are the two most critical factors during this time. This includes keeping people abreast of specific plan changes, new fees and taxes, reporting requirements, and new rules regarding enrollments, non-discrimination and other changes.

“With any change, there is a period of adjustment that needs to take place,” said Taffet. “Assisting clients through this process, ensuring they understand the law itself and comply with it, and educating them of the necessary steps in the years ahead – these are all some of the most critical factors that face employers and brokers today.”

 
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