• How is Obamacare going to affect me?

    From time to time, I solicit questions on Twitter. The following, edited for clarity and brevity, came by email. Even though the question relates to Veterans Affairs benefits, the answer is more generally applicable.

    I receive health benefits from the Veterans Health Administration due to my low income. How is Obamacare going to affect me?

    Google is somewhat, but only somewhat, your friend here. A search of “affordable care act veterans benefits” finds many resources that directly answer this question, but at the same time some miss the point.

    Having only skimmed a few sites, I think the VA’s “The Affordable Care Act, VA, and You” does a decent job. There you’ll learn

    If you are enrolled in any of VA’s programs below, you have coverage under the standards of the health care law:

    • Veteran’s health care program
    • Civilian Health and Medical program (CHAMPVA)
    • Spina bifida health care program You don’t need to do anything more.

    The health care law does not change your VA benefits or out-of-pocket costs. You can continue to enjoy VA health care.

    That is, your VA care will not go away and you won’t be assessed a penalty. Your VA coverage qualifies as, well, coverage, as do employer-sponsored plans, Medicaid, Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Plan, TRICARE, etc.*

    But what if you want to know what else Obamacare could do for you? That page includes some more information and, unlike many others, helpfully, refers you to healthcare.gov, which is a consumer-friendly health reform clearinghouse, of sorts. There’s a lot there, so click around. Here are a few links to some particularly relevant pages:

    • What do military veterans need to know about the Marketplace? “Marketplace” here refers to the new, online resources for obtaining coverage, which will be available and different in every state, depending on which insurers provide coverage in which states and whether state Medicaid programs expand or not. Even though you may have VA coverage, you and your family members are also eligible for other coverage through the Marketplace, should you want it.
    • Welcome to the Marketplace. Start here to find out more about the marketplace in your state. It appears that you need to create an account and log in for state-specific details. (I think requiring a log in is a design mistake. If someone is aware of an equivalently or more informative, official site that doesn’t, please tell me in a comment.)
    • Will I qualify for lower costs on monthly premiums? If you have VA or certain other types of coverage, you don’t qualify for premium subsidies. However, your family members may.
    • Do I qualify for Medicaid? You or family members may qualify for Medicaid. Go here to find out.

    Finally, if you need or want even more assistance in exploring your options, there will be “Navigators” to help you. I am not aware of a site that can connect you to a Navigator right now (readers, is there one?), but here’s a PDF with a list of organizations that will provide Navigator services, by state. You could find one of these organizations and contact them.

    No doubt, there are other good resources or will be. Do not consider the above comprehensive or even the best possible advice (especially if you’re reading this well after the publication date). Keep asking and searching until you find what you need. If it’s not out there now, likely it will be soon, as many sites and means of support are still ramping up. As of this writing, you have several more months to make changes for next year, if you want to.

    * I’m unable to find a resource that explains what types of plans would not qualify as coverage. Anyone know of one?


    • There are no lists of where you can find navigators/certified application counselors/in-person assisters at this time. This is probably a good thing, since I’m pretty sure no one’s completed the training yet and organizations are still trying to be certified as assisters.

      Healthcare.gov will have a list of available assisters and several states are working to have their own searchable tools too.

    • Wow! But the Marketplace had a tedious sign-up process.

      It rejected me and didn’t say why — suggested anything from the username I chose being already taken to bad format on the answers to my challenge questions.

      Not only that, but you need to pick 3 Challenge questions and I couldn’t find 3 where I was sure I’d know the answers again when I came back. For instance, I don’t have a favorite cuisine. I don’t have a niece. Neither of my grandmothers had nicknames and if they both did, I’d have to remember which grandmother I chose. Phone number of a close relative? I’ve got a few logical choices. My husband has more than one. First boss? I don’t remember and anyway, what was my first “real” job? I started babysitting and delivering papers at age 12. When did the person who paid me start counting as a boss?

      Who thought this up?

      When I get challenge questions at bank sites, I always manage to find a a number where I know the answers and I know I will answer the same way next time I get the question without having to write notes.

      • Not sure whining about the tech here makes much sense.

      • A few points about security questions: 1. You can write
        down the answers to challenge questions. 2. The questions
        themselves too if that helps. 3. And you can put in any answer to a
        challenge question that you like (and that fits in the box). It
        doesn’t have to correspond to the question. It’s actually more
        secure that way. Sure, someone might steal your information if you
        write it down but then you have larger issues.

    • I found this guide to getting and using health insurance thanks to the NPR Shots Blog: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/08/22/214444547/say-what-jargon-busters-tackle-health-insurance

      And here’s the direct link to the consumer pamphlet:

      Here’s the academic work behind it:

      It’s got accessible explanations about both health insurance generally and the ACA specifically.

    • There seems to be a lot of nonsense floating around on conservative social media, I got this from a facebook friend and it seems really off to me. Does anyone know about this? Here is part of the post

      Obama Care Highlighted by Page Number
      THE CARE BILL HB 3200
      Judge Kithil of Marble Falls, TX – highlighted the most egregious pages of HB3200
      Please read this……. especially the reference to pages 58 & 59

      JUDGE KITHIL wrote:
      Page 50/section 152: The bill will provide insurance to all non-U.S. residents, even if they are here illegally.

      Page 58 and 59: The government will have real-time access to an individual’s bank account and will have the authority to make electronic fund transfers from those accounts.

      Page 65/section 164: The plan will be subsidized (by the government) for all union members, union retirees and for community organizations (such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now – ACORN).

      Page 203/line 14-15: The tax imposed under this section will not be treated as a tax. (How could anybody in their right mind come up with that?)

      Page 241 and 253: Doctors will all be paid the same regardless of specialty, and the government will set all doctors’ fees.

      Page 272. section 1145: Cancer hospital will ration care according to the patient’s age.

      Page 317 and 321: The government will impose a prohibition on hospital expansion; however, communities may petition for an exception.
      Page 425, line 4-12: The government mandates advance-care planning consultations. Those on Social Security will be required to attend an “end-of-life planning” seminar every five years. (Death counseling..)

      Page 429, line 13-25: The government will specify which doctors can write an end-of-life order.

    • thanks everyone, very helpful

    • Why not ask a broker that is engaged in the exchanges/marketplaces?
      Do you think a navigator that had 6 hours of training is going to be able to explain limited networks, specific co pays, drug formularies & so on?
      I am sure the Navigator will learn these thing but they are not held accountable. The great thing about a broker is they are accountable.
      If you are not happy with them, fire them and get it a new one.

      I am a broker and have spent a lot of time on the upcoming exchanges.