Health care confusing
Published: Thursday, October 10th, 2013
Although it officially launched Oct. 1, many local and state officials are still uncertain as to how the Affordable Healthcare Act will affect their business and employees.
The website for the federal health insurance marketplace was in high demand, but state officials were fielding calls from people who aren’t sure how President Barack Obama’s signature legislature will affect them, according to an Associated Press (AP) article by Dick Lammers.
South Dakota is one of 36 states letting the federal government run its health exchange, where consumers can compare plans and buy health insurance. Nonprofits and advocacy groups funded by federal grants are helping residents navigate the system and sign up for coverage.
The Obama administration hopes to sign up seven million people during the first year and aims to eventually sign up at least half of the nearly 50 million uninsured Americans through an expansion of Medicaid or a government-subsidized plan. The Affordable Healthcare Act is the county’s biggest healthcare expansion in nearly 50 years.
According to the AP article, about 105,000 South Dakotans, or 13 percent of the state’s population, are uninsured. Dec. 15 is the deadline to obtain coverage that will start Jan. 1. Customers have until March to sign up in order to avoid tax penalties.
Many who tried to sign up for the program on the day it launched were greeted by jammed phone lines and overloaded websites.
No company is forced to provide health coverage under the law. However, large employers (those with at least 50 employees) face a steep tax penalty if they choose not to offer a plan that meets new affordability and minimum coverage requirements. That penalty that is the “employer mandate” provision of the law. The law exempts companies with fewer than 50 employees, which represents 97 percent of U.S. businesses.
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