Uncertainty quickly becoming a staple of the Affordable Care Act
The U.S. health care landscape is facing a great deal of uncertainty due to the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The federal law was passed in 2010, and later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, but the law’s most significant provisions have only taken effect over the past year, with more to come throughout 2014. The law aims to change the way health insurance coverage works and introduce new regulations designed to govern the health care industry, but these provisions have also created a great deal of uncertainty throughout the country among consumers and businesses alike.
One of the key goals of the Affordable Care Act is to expand the availability of health insurance coverage and make that coverage mandatory for all citizens. In order to accomplish the first half of this goal, the law is encouraging the expansion of state-based Medicaid programs. In states that will be expanding Medicaid coverage, such as Ohio, millions of people have become eligible for coverage benefits. The problem, however, is that many people are unaware that they can receive coverage from their state’s Medicaid program. This problem is compounded by the number of states that have opted not to expand their program, leaving consumers to find coverage through other avenues.
How to pay for coverage is becoming a major priority
Uncertainty concerning the future of health care throughout the country does not come primarily from the accessibility of coverage, however, but rather in how that coverage, and medical care, will be paid for. Those that cannot receive Medicaid coverage will have to find policies from the private market for from a state-based health insurance exchange. Due to the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, however, consumers will have to pay more for coverage no matter where it comes from. The federal law has introduced new taxes and fees that are creating a problematic financial situation for insurance providers. In order to overcome this situation, insurers have been raising rates. Moreover, the rising cost of medical care is also making a serious impact on the insurance sector, forcing insurers to raise rates even further.
In Ohio alone, hospitals have reported more than $4.5 billion in uncompensated care.
Nationwide, uncompensated care ranges closer to $40 billion. Those seeking out medical care are often unable to afford the care they are given and much of this care remains uncovered by insurers. While insurers are raising rates, higher premiums will not mean better coverage for medical care, so the uncompensated care problem is not likely to diminish in the coming years.
Health insurance costs are rising alongside medical care costs, but wages are not growing in a compensatory fashion. Because insurance coverage is becoming so expensive, many people are expected to opt for penalties issued by the federal government than pay high premiums. These federal penalties may end up being more affordable for consumers than insurance coverage is.