Affordable Care Act continues to produce confusion and anger

By From page A1 | December 18, 2013

Problems implementing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) continue, adding to the anger and confusion over the new law.

Breakdowns and security breaches have characterized the federal health exchange Website from the outset. Despite some improvements, problems persist.

According to a recent report from ABC News, one-third of the 149,000 people who have been able to sign up for Obamacare may not have health insurance come Jan. 1 even though the federal Website accepted their applications and confirmed they had coverage.

Apparently under the terms of Obamacare, policies are not considered in effect until the purchaser has paid at least the first month’s premium.

Other glitches in the Website include that it failed to notify insurers about new customers, allowed duplicate enrollments or cancellation notices for the same person, had incorrect information about family members, or made mistakes involving federal subsidies.

Issues have also arisen as millions of people have received cancellation notices because their insurance no longer includes the coverage mandated by the law despite President Obama’s repeated promise that people could keep their existing insurance if they wanted to.

Recently NBC News reported that “50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a ‘cancellation’ letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet standards mandated by the new health care law. One expert predicts that number could reach as high as 80 percent. And all say that many of those forced to buy pricier new policies will experience ‘sticker shock.’”

In response to mounting criticism of the bill, on Nov. 14 Obama announced that for a year insurance companies could offer plans that didn’t meet the new healthcare standards. This was followed by the House of Representatives voting to allow companies to offer such plans indefinitely. That set up a conflict as Obama criticized the House action while some in Congress questioned his authority to arbitrarily change the law.

However at least eight states, including California, have decided to reject Obama’s proposal for a year’s grace period and are requiring residents to buy health insurance that meets the mandates of the law.

Meanwhile, more Americans are finding that their existing health insurance has indeed been canceled, their premiums and deductibles are being raised, and many are losing their doctors under their new health plans.

According to a recent article in the Washington Examiner, an estimated seven of every 10 physicians in California won’t participate in the state’s health insurance exchange, in part due to reimbursement rates being pegged to rates paid by Medi-Cal. California offers one of the lowest government reimbursement rates in the country — 30 percent lower than federal Medicare payments. Some worry that if enough doctors boycott the exchange, the state’s medical system could be overwhelmed.

A few local residents called to report similar problems with Obamacare.

Roland Kling of Diamond Springs said his daughter has been trying to access the Website “Covered California” for over a month now. Covered California is California’s new health insurance exchange for those signing up under Obamacare.

He said when his daughter tried calling the exchange, she was told the wait time was at least 30 minutes and if she didn’t want to wait, to leave a call back number. Several hours later she received a recorded message telling her to call again, which she did and got the same response. Kling said that so far his daughter has been unable to either enroll or talk to anyone. “They spend $700 million and two years and can’t get it right,” he complained.

Another resident, Ethel Cirddle of El Dorado Hills, said her son, who is 62, recently received a letter from AARP telling him that the insurance he has with them doesn’t meet the requirements of Obamacare. AARP said it didn’t plan to drop him but there was a chance he’d be fined because his insurance doesn’t comply with the coverage mandated by Obamacare. Cirddle said her son is living on $900 a month, is already paying $115 a month for health insurance, and can’t afford to pay more.

“I’m worried about all these people with insurance plans that don’t meet Obamacare requirements,” said Cirddle. “Some insurance is better than none.”

Other members of her family are also having problems with the new health insurance program. Cirddle’s granddaughter, Carlie Maxwell of Placerville, is married with five children. She qualifies for Medi-Cal based on the income she and her husband earn and the size of the family. Medi-Cal recently informed her she would have to switch to one of two plans offered by companies providing managed care services to Medi-Cal clients. However, doing so means leaving the doctor that has been treating her son suffering from neurology problems after a car accident. She said she really doesn’t have any choice because she can’t afford to buy insurance as it would cost the family $2,500 a month.

Maxwell’s sister has also applied for a Medi-Cal-related health plan and has lost her doctor as well because he doesn’t accept the new plan she is under. “Now her only option is to go to Marshall Medical Center,” said Maxwell.

Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.

Dawn Hodson

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