Many employees in Alabama continue to wonder how the Affordable Health Care Act will affect them in the doctor’s office and on the job.
Many employers are trying to decide how they will be affected by the new mandates they face to provide health insurance for employees. In some cases, it is a choice between paying for an expensive health care program for employees or paying a fine for not setting up the benefit.
Meantime, specific information about the program about to be launched is still pending.
The plan begins open enrollment in just more than a month. In November 2012, Governor Robert Bentley announced Alabama will not set up a state insurance “exchange” under the federal health care law.
The exchange is a place to find health coverage that fits individual budgets and needs. These offices, also called “marketplaces,” are to be accessible via Internet websites to provide information and enrollment applications.
“I am not going to set up a state-based exchange that will create a tax burden of up to $50 million on the people of Alabama,” Bentley explained last year.
Twenty five other states also refused to set up the exchanges. Those include Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
In those states, the federal government will have to develop the exchange for the state. A half dozen more are establishing the exchanges with the federal government’s help.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the new program will provide health insurance for many in Alabama currently without coverage. HHS breaks down the state numbers this way:
• 642,738 (16%) are uninsured and eligible
• 441,701 (69%) have a full-time worker in the family
• 266,399 (41%) are 18-35 years old
• 367,897 (57%) are White
• 226,366 (35%) are African American
• 32,405 (5%) are Latino/Hispanic
• 4,194 (1%) are Asian American or Pacific Islander
• 344,256 (54%) are male
The HHS numbers estimate 608,430 (95%) of the state’s uninsured and eligible population may qualify for either tax credits to purchase coverage in the Marketplace or for Medicaid … providing Alabama uses the Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid coverage.
It appears that will not happen.
“I also will not expand Medicaid under the current structure that exists because we simply cannot afford it,” Bentley said last November.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision put the decision to expand Medicaid programs in the hands of state leaders. So far, only 26 states have opted to do so.
The new online “Health Insurance Marketplace” being set up for Alabama is accessible via the HHS website Healthcare.gov. While many continue to wonder what they’ll need to do to comply with the law requiring everyone to have healthcare coverage at the risk of fines and penalties for non-compliance, information is scarce. Just a month before people can start signing up for those programs, the information at the website is still unavailable.
So far, inquiries at the site about plans and premiums are answered with the statement the information will not be available until October 1. The site states it will serve as an exchange for people in Alabama to use to sign up for coverage.
Meantime, the Alabama Department of Insurance has a website explaining many in the state have low cost health insurance options for some people.
Those include the ALL Kids, Plan First, MLIF, and SOBRA Medicaid plans.