By Donald Ingalls
It’s been nearly four years since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010. It is vast in scope, incredibly complicated, relevant to one-sixth of the economy and has many moving parts. It’s not surprising that there have been pluses and minuses in its implementation.
At BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, we have been in “reform mode” since the law’s approval. Like other health plans across the state, we have been working with our members and employers to help them navigate through the complexities of the law.
Many of the early provisions have proven to be very popular. Arguably the most popular is the provision for young adults up to age 26 to be covered through their parents’ policies. According to the Commonwealth Fund’s 2013 annual tracking survey, an estimated 7.8 million young adults between the ages of 19 and 25 were either able to join or stay on their parents’ policies last year.
Expanded coverage of preventive care without co-pays, deductibles or coinsurance – such as physicals, mammograms and colonoscopies – has also proved popular.
But there have been significant bumps in the road. Certainly, the federal health insurance exchange launch has been very problematic. The New York State of Health marketplace appears to be operating more smoothly, but the problems with the national marketplace has clouded any success New York has experienced.
The vast scope of the law, the bustle of political rhetoric and the complex nature of health insurance has caused confusion for many members of the community.
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study indicates that 44 percent of those polled say they don’t have enough information to understand how the ACA will impact them and their families.
As The News reported recently, approximately 137,000 Western New Yorkers are being notified that their current plans are being discontinued and that they will need to choose new plans in 2014 in order to comply with the ACA. The people affected are the relatively small number who purchase coverage on their own, and employees of small companies (those with 50 or fewer employees eligible for insurance).
Being told your health insurance policy is ending and that you need to choose another plan can be inconvenient at best and alarming at worst.
The good news is replacement plans are available for people to continue to be covered. In our 76 years as a health insurer, we have seen many changes. This is just another bump in this road we’re traveling. We’ve always been there to help people understand their options and weather the changes. This time is no different.
Donald Ingalls is the vice president of state and federal relations at BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York.