Under Obama's Affordable Care Act, Leeches are making a comeback! Seriously.
Q4 or the final quarter is when employees getting group health insurance from their employers estimate changes for the coming year. Usually open enrollment starts in October and ends December 31st. At the same time, more developments with the "New Affordable Care Act." Think of them to as hurling towards you like to two asteroids.
In spite of (or because of) the New Affordable Care Act, health insurance premiums increased 9% for families and 8% for individuals in this year him (2011)*. Those increases are projected to continue until 2014, when the secretary of health will have to approve increases over 10%. Health insurance carriers must pay 80% of their premiums out in medical care, regardless of future losses. Can you say single-payer?
Since employees get a maximum in compensation consisting of wages and benefits, and benefits continue to increase in price, wages should fall. And higher health insurance costs will be paid by mostly employees. To the able to pay the monthly health insurance premium is a priority, so examine lower priced, high deductible plans. Precaution: If you have a chronic medical problem (especially one that is incurable), a higher deductible plan will become a fixed cost every year. If you're sick, don't consider less expensive, higher co-share plans from your employer, unless there is no other plan available.
Plan fail - It's an unknown under Obamacare, but it's been estimated that around 30% of employers will end their health insurance plans and dump employees onto the state run SHOP Exchanges. That is starting to occur now, but the health insurance companies are still not mandated to cover you until 2014. So 2012 to 2013 could be difficult years, if you have a chronic health issue.
Co-payments - because of cuts to Medicare advantage, dialysis, home healthcare, in increased costs for medical devices, many doctors will be raising their office visit fees to compensate.
Premiums - because of a new tax on all private health insurance policies starting with the plan year 2012, insurance carriers may also raise the premiums on the group health insurance to compensate.
Deductibles - your annual deductible probably will increase. but the IRS is to set limits on the amount of deductions available under Obamacare. Once the IRS announces limits, increasing premiums will be the main option of insurance companies dealing with rising healthcare costs. As you age, you use more health care, so don't go out and buy the highest deductible plan your employer offers if you are old.
Prescription drug coverage - since Obamacare penalizes pharmaceutical companies starting this year, next, make drug cost to increase, and fewer drug companies to be around.
Lower Coverage - Your insurance may cover less for prescription drugs, hospital stays, x-rays and or lab, etc. Although annual and lifetime maximums have been outlawed under Obamacare, it did not change the amount insurance will cover per procedure or drug. Employers often find ways to minimize the increases on the amount they pay for health insurance by switching to a cheaper, lower coverage plan.
Spouses - If your spouse are currently covered through your employer-sponsored plan, make sure that your employer is still extending coverage to these beneficiaries. See if your employer has changed the amount they'll contribute toward dependents' monthly insurance premiums too.
Dependents (via the Slacker penalty) - If you have an adult child under age 26 on your plan, find out how much your employer contributes toward his or her monthly premiums. Employers may be legally obligated to often no coverage, but not contribute to their monthly premiums. Also, check your spouse's plan to see if the employee share of the premium is more or less than under your own plan. It may be more cost-effective to insure you or your family under your spouse's plan instead.
Still in Network? Your employer may switch insurance companies or offer higher deductible plans to keep costs down. Make sure your doctors and hospitals is under the new plan, especially if you have a specialist and/or are being treated for a chronic condition.
FSAs (Flexible Spending Accounts) - Obamacare puts new limits by capping them at $2.500 per year. Problem: the average annual cost of health care in the US is more than $7000 a year per-capita. While your employer offers one, make sure you take advantage of the tax benefits of an FSA this final year before they are phased out. By law, employees must spend the money they set aside in each year; any unspent balances revert back to the employer.
HSAs (Health Savings Accounts) - If you get laid off and have a Health Savings Account from a previous employer, ask your new employer (if you can find one) if they will contribute to your account. Money in your HSA is yours to keep and rolls over from year to year. But under Obamacare the penalties increase to 20% on funds used for nonmedical expenses.
HRAs and MSAs - as with FSAs, distributions are no longer allowed for nonprescription, over-the-counter drugs.
Layoffs - to Obamacare penalizes businesses with 50 or more on a per employee basis, don't be surprised if you're downsized in 2012. Pick a plan that will cost you less, since you must pay 102% of the full premium through COBRA. Find out if the plan you're considering has the features you need, doctors or specialist you like and facilities you're familiar with.
Private health insurance - consider buying and individual or family plans with high deductible, you may save up to 20% off your premium. Deductible health plans will be certain to change in the future under Obamacare.
Extended and pretend - Cut back on discretionary spending. Since most services will increase in price, except for your services (your paycheck), so you will have to cut things from your budgets in order afford health insurance. The good news is with employer coverage, they subsidize a portion of the premium. Unlike private health insurance, where you pay 100%.
Plan B - if you cannot afford even your employer's subsidized group health plan, as long as you have a job, if your employer still maintains a health plan, consider open enrollment Q4 of 2012.
Usually talking to any politician a complete waste of time, and they're probably hearing blah blah blah and thinking of unicorns and their 3 martini lunch. But with Obamacare I'll make an exception. Call your representative and tell them you don't want Obamacare, because it's not sustainable. True long-term health care reform is what this country needs. Not empty promises that can't possibly be paid for, regardless of the accounting gimmicks they employ.
*The Kaiser Family Foundation
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