Niagara Gazette

Columns

June 18, 2013

CONFER: Obamacare: The great unknown

Niagara Gazette — I consider myself fairly versed on the nuances of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a Obamacare). I’ve studied the Act for years (even before its adoption), given lectures to local community groups about it, and written about it in these pages and elsewhere.

Despite such engagement, I still don’t know anything. There are so many ill-devised facets of Obamacare that questions abound about their impact, let alone their implementation.

For example, Obamacare requires that employers provide so-called “affordable” health care that cannot exceed 9.5 percent percent of an employee’s household income — not their income from that employer, but their total household income. How can an employer, with all of the federal and state privacy laws in effect, request an employee’s family income so that the employer can assess the affordability of the insurance offered?

Or, where will insurance premiums be in 2014? We know there will be a $63 per person surcharge to cover the costs of the uninsured and there will be an added tax on health insurance companies (which, of course, get passed on to consumers). And then you have to figure that the medical device excise tax introduced this year will start appearing as an added cost of premiums going forward. These all represent just a portion of the new burdens.

Those concerns, just a few of many, are making Obamacare a great unknown for not only me, but all employers — including the insurance companies themselves!

I’ve tried to find answers, but my questions haven’t been and won’t be easily answered. Health and Human Services has multiple easy ways to contact them if you receive public healthcare (Medicaid and Medicare), but offers only limited ways (and a painful phone system with ill-prepared personnel) if you are an employer or employee who provides and/or buys insurance (go figure). Worse yet, the fed’s clerical individuals who are supposed to have the answers don’t because their bosses — and those we elect to oversee them — don’t either.

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