Recently, my wife and I were having lunch with her late-20s cousin, a self-employed musician. Our conversation turned to the question of whether, as a single and healthy young adult, he should purchase health insurance next year when the individual mandate goes into effect.
This question seems simple, but as the Affordable Care Act has rolled out, this law’s new minimum-coverage requirements for health-care plans have had serious unintended consequences. These new requirements, including coverage for maternity and pediatric care, have led to the cancellation of many Americans’ existing policies that lacked such coverage. Many so affected have had to purchase more expensive plans with coverage that they simply did not need.
President Obama’s promise that “if you like your health-care plan, you can keep your health-care plan” has been replaced by the offer to extend some old plans for one year, usually with higher deductibles and monthly premiums. Frankly, this is a stay of execution rather than a full pardon. The simple fact is that insurers continuing to offer such plans after the extension period ends would be in violation of existing federal statutes.
As I explained to my wife’s cousin, his best prospects for a health plan that meets his specific needs would require that the ACA be amended. Should this process begin, it would present the first real opportunity in more than three years to reassess legislation with known current problems and other problems that will surely surface with its further implementation. Many of these problems would have been apparent in advance had the ACA’s partisan supporters carefully examined the act’s many provisions before its passage.
My wife’s cousin might reasonably decide to sit on the sidelines at least until the 2014 open enrollment deadline approaches, hoping that ACA amendments occur. Failing that event, he could pay a small fine now, knowing that if he later developed a medical problem he could purchase a health plan without his being denied for a pre-existing condition.
While the healthcare.gov website glitches have gotten a lot of airplay, they are far from the ACA’s biggest problem and eventually will be fixed. However, fixing the website without solving the ACA’s more pressing problems will fall far short of meeting the basic needs and concerns of my wife’s cousin and many other Americans like him.