Obamacare: It’s not that scary

Happy Halloween everyone. To go with today’s theme, we thought we’d talk about something that’s been scaring people for a long time – the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a Obamacare. But the truth is that it really isn’t that scary – or at least it doesn’t have to be.

There are currently two big news stories surrounding the health reform legislation: the absolutely awful rollout of the Healthcare.gov individual marketplace and the health insurance cancellation letters being sent to millions of Americans who’ve purchased coverage in the individual market.

On the latter point, the fact that the cancellations are news to people just goes to show that there are a lot of uninformed consumers out there and a lot of people without a good insurance agent. In the insurance industry, we’ve known since shortly after the law was passed that making certain plan changes (pretty much any plan changes) would cause an employer or individual health plan to lose its “grandfathered” status. Grandfathered plans were able to avoid a few of the new market rules back in 2010 and get to avoid some of the major changes in 2014.

Nonetheless, since the true benefit of being grandfathered was so far in the future, many individuals and many employers have decided over the past three years that it just wasn’t worth it. Now that they’re facing cancellation of their old, non-grandfathered plans and being forced into higher-priced ACA-compliant plans, many of these people are crying foul. They claim they didn’t know this was going to happen, but as we all know, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Consumers who work with a good insurance agent should have known the rules years ago.

The other news story that has a lot of people scared – the continued failure of the Healthcare.gov site to work properly (if at all) – is a fear that can be easily overcome since there is no requirement that people enroll through that site to get a subsidy. In fact, for the millions of individuals who won’t qualify for a premium tax credit, Healthcare.gov really offers no advantage over other enrollment options. People can shop for coverage outside of the government exchange and, in most states, will have more options to choose from.

For those who do qualify for a subsidy, HHS is allowing them to enroll directly through the insurance company’s website with the assistance of a licensed insurance agent or through a private exchange site. This offers consumers a much more user-friendly experience and gives them the opportunity to purchase ancillary products like dental or life insurance at the same time. And, more importantly, they don’t have to try to figure it out themselves – they can talk with licensed insurance professionals at a world-class call center that can answer their questions and help them find the right insurance plan for themselves and their families. Here’s an example of a private exchange site:

Are there problems with the law? Sure. Even supporters of the legislation will admit that. But for everyone who’s scared of the coming changes, a lot of that is driven by fear of the unknown. This can easily be overcome by learning what’s in the law and how it will impact you personally. And for brokers who can share these answers with consumers and offer a solution, there’s a huge opportunity.

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