On Wednesday, March 12, WFTV-TV, the ABC affiliate in Orlando, aired an hour-long special report called “Health Evolution: The Affordable Care Act.” The special, hosted by anchors Vanessa Welch and Greg Warmoth, was made possible with the help of Florida Hospital, Orlando Health and Florida Blue. The special answered questions many people have about the Affordable Care Act; uninsured Americans have until March 31 to purchase health care plans so they are in compliance with federal law.
Some of the questions answered during the special were:
- “What kind of personal information do I need to provide if I go and sit down with a navigator?” Anne Packham, the lead Affordable Care Act navigator for the state of Florida, said that the information one needs is simple: bring your Social Security card and the cards for everyone being signed up under the specific health care plan, know your income specifics (bring pay stubs and/or tax forms if need be), and also bring proof of residency if you’re not a citizen. People can choose to take the information about the different plans home to compare coverage, while others make their decision in one sitting. If the plan you choose ends up not being sufficient for you, you can change your plan at the beginning of next year.
- “My employer will cover me under their health insurance starting in November. Do I have to enroll in the public marketplace before then?” Jason Altmire, former U.S. Representative and current Senior Vice President, Public Policy & Community Engagement at Florida Blue, said that even though your employer promises to cover your insurance needs at a later date, it is still required by law for everyone to be covered by March 31; there are no exceptions granted to situations like this. Packham noted that there is an option to de-enroll from the marketplace, and also one to re-enroll should someone lose their coverage at their job due to termination.
- “What happens if we don’t pay the penalty?” Altmire says that starting out, the penalty for not enrolling in the health care marketplace is not large enough to bother most people: it is the greater amount of either $95 or 1% of one’s household income. In three years, however, that amount will rise to the greater of either $700 or 2.5% of your household income. The penalty is enforceable by the tax code; on next year’s tax forms people will be required to check either “yes” or “no” with regard to whether they have health insurance. Everyone in a household must have insurance: the penalty will be triggered if, say, a household of five people has just one person without insurance.
- “When medical marijuana is passed, will my insurance company pay for it?” Medical marijuana is on the ballot in Florida this year. Altmire says that out of all the questions he hears from concerned Floridians, this is the one he hears the most. The simple answer to this question is no, not right now. Since marijuana is still considered federally to be an illegal substance, it would have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration before any insurance company would be able to include it in any of their plans.
- “I am 25 and I was dropped from my parents’ health care plan with no explanation. Why was this?” A main provision of the Affordable Care Act allows people to be covered by their parents’ plans until age 26, so if anyone is dropped before then, they would need to inquire directly with the insurance company to find out why. Dr. Karen Van Caulil, President of the Florida Health Care Coalition, opines that one reason why this may have occurred could have boiled down to the son living apart from his parents and attempting to get health care out-of-network, which may have resulted in a payment failure. Altmire also says to check with the parent’s employer; many workplaces have switched from family coverage to individual coverage and that may have been why a dependent would have been dropped.
- “If I have Medicaid, am I in compliance with the Affordable Care Act?” Jon Urbanek, Senior Vice President of Commercial Markets at Florida Blue says that yes, generally people with coverage under Medicaid are covered. Packham is quick to note, however, that people enrolled in the Share of Cost program are not sufficiently covered and do need to enroll themselves in the marketplace.
For more specific questions about how the Affordable Health Care act will impact LGBT people and their families, read the pamphlet Optimizing LGBT Health Under the Affordable Care Act: Strategies for Health Centers. It includes frequently asked questions by LGBT people. You can read this pamphlet by going to the link http://www.lgbthealtheducation.org/wp-content/uploads/Brief-Optimizing-LGBT-Health-Under-ACA-FINAL-12-06-2013.pdf.
A detailed breakdown of the Affordable Care Act specifically for LGBT people is also available via the Center for American Progress, a co-contributor to the aforementioned pamphlet. For more information from the Center, visit http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/report/2013/10/10/76693/lgbt-communities-and-the-affordable-care-act/.