Last week, we asked you to submit your questions on the new health care law for the Obama campaign to answer, and you had plenty of them.
It's not surprising -- not only is the health care law complex, multifaceted, and still unfolding, it's also a central focus in this presidential election. President Obama, obviously, is fighting to keep it in place, while Mitt Romney has pledged to repeal it and allow the states to develop their own health care reform plans.
The Obama campaign reached out to CafeMom recently and offered to answer your questions on the new health care law. After the jump, we have your questions, followed by answers from Obama for America Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter.
Why are health care costs so different for women now, and how is that going to change?
Right now, insurance companies can charge women up to 50 percent more than men, for the very same coverage. Here’s why: first, women are more likely to see a doctor when they’re sick; and second, even if a plan doesn’t cover maternity care, insurance companies fear they might have to pay for complications from a pregnancy.
But by 2014, thanks to health care reform (otherwise known as “Obamacare”), this shameful practice will finally be banned for good. Insurance companies will have to charge women and men the same price, and being a woman will no longer be considered a pre-existing condition!
What counts as a preventive service covered without co-pay? Is it just for women?
To help make sure families can afford the preventive care they need to stay healthy, Obamacare requires most private health insurance plans to cover recommended preventive services for women, men, and children without charging you a co-pay or deductible. Lots of services are covered, including: cancer screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies; flu shots and childhood immunizations; screenings for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes; and, soon, special services for women like birth control pills. You can see the full list here.
How long can my developmentally disabled son stay on my insurance policy, if he isn't able to go to college? I want to be able to change jobs, but I can't risk losing my insurance. Is there some kind of back-up plan I can use if I need it?
Before Obamacare, in most states children would be kicked off their family health insurance plan when they turned 18, or 23 if they were a full-time student. But thanks to Obamacare, all insurance plans are required to cover young people until their 26th birthday -- regardless of whether or not they are a student or live at home. And in just two years you, your son, and all Americans will be able to get affordable insurance coverage even if you don’t have a job that offers health insurance.
You also no longer have to worry about your son being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Today, thanks to Obamacare, children under 19 can’t be turned away by insurance companies because of a pre-existing condition, and adults with pre-existing conditions are able to get coverage through the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Program. Even better, starting in 2014, no insurance company will be able to turn anyone down or charge anyone more because of a pre-existing condition.
Isn’t the ACA just about helping the uninsured? Does it help the rest of us?
The vast majority of Americans get health insurance through their job -- and Obamacare doesn’t change that. But it does make our coverage stronger by putting in place new rules that keep insurance companies from taking advantage of their consumers.
A few examples:
· Lifetime caps, which used to mean your insurance could “run out” just when you needed it most, have been abolished, benefiting 105 million Americans.
· Fifty-four million people have seen their coverage for preventive services (with no out-of-pocket costs) expanded because of Obamacare.
· Insurance companies can’t deny coverage to the up to 17 million kids with pre-existing conditions, and in 2014, no one will be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
· 2.5 million young people who would otherwise be uninsured have been able to stay on their family health insurance plan until they turn 26.
The health care law is helping all Americans, not just those who are uninsured. If you have more questions, you can learn about the specific benefits for your family here.
Is it affordable for single moms?
Yes! Making sure health insurance is affordable for working families was one of President Obama’s top priorities. Right away the law took steps to hold down premiums for families like yours, by making sure insurance companies can’t just hike up your premium without a reason and aren't spending too much on administrative costs. And in just two years, there will be even more affordable options for you to get health care coverage.
I’ve heard the law means long lines and withholding care for the elderly and very sick.
There’s a lot of misinformation out there about what Obamacare does. The truth is that the health care law invests in thousands of new primary care providers, so that everyone has access to timely care. And it absolutely does not ration care or prevent our seniors from getting the treatment they need. In fact, it improves Medicare for our seniors by closing the prescription drug doughnut hole and providing coverage for seniors’ preventive care at no extra cost. Independent fact-checkers have said over and over again that the law will not limit care for the elderly or the sick.
I have a seasonal job and do not qualify for that company's benefits, and I also am self-employed, but do not make enough at this time to purchase my own health insurance -- will there be an option of sorts for someone like myself?
Absolutely. Starting in 2014, the Affordable Care Act will finally make coverage affordable for people like you, who don’t get insurance coverage at work. Here’s how it works: you’ll be able to shop for coverage in new Affordable Insurance Exchanges, where plans have to compete based on price and quality, kind of like an Expedia or Orbitz for health insurance. You’ll also be eligible for tax credits that cover a big portion of the cost of your coverage -- tax credits that, for a typical middle class family, will cut health insurance premiums by 60 percent or more. Of course the vast majority of Americans will continue to get coverage through their jobs -- but there will be new options for people like you.
I was diagnosed with cancer when I didn’t have health insurance. I heard that I can still get health insurance coverage, even though I have a pre-existing condition. Is that true? Or is it not in effect already?
No one got a worse deal in the old health insurance system than the 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions -- from cancer to arthritis to heart disease. Insurance companies used to be able to charge you more or deny you coverage altogether, but Obamacare puts those days behind us. Today, if you’ve been without health insurance for six months and have a pre-existing health condition, you can enroll in the new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP). You can watch a video about how PCIP helped one woman with breast cancer, or learn more about enrolling in the program at PCIP.gov. And starting in 2014, no insurance company will be able to deny coverage or charge you more because of your health.
Why is there a fine if you don’t buy health insurance? And does paying the fine mean you’re insured?
Today, the majority of American families who have insurance are paying a “hidden tax” of about $1,000 a year to cover the cost of care for people who are uninsured. In two years, nearly every family in America will have access to affordable health insurance, thanks to new tax credits for middle class families. The law simply asks individuals to take responsibility for the cost of their health care: if people who are able to afford coverage choose not to purchase it, they’ll pay a fine to offset the costs that they are shifting to the rest of us. If you already have insurance, like most Americans, it won’t impact you at all. And if you can’t afford insurance, even after the tax credits, you’ll be exempt from the “individual responsibility” provision.
Do you really not have to pay a co-pay for checkups? For your children’s checkups?
That’s right -- most insurance plans have to cover regular pediatrician’s visits and, starting soon, woman’s wellness visit with no co-pay! It’s just one of the many ways the health care law helps save money for hard-working families. Two things to keep in mind: First, you may still need to a pay a co-pay for other doctor’s visits (like when your son has an ear infection). Second, the rules are phasing in -- they apply to most insurance plans today, and if they don’t apply to you yet, that should change soon. You can visit our website to learn more about this and other specific benefits for your family here.
Image via Healthcare.gov