I must confess I am little ticked off this morning, so please bear with me. I have guided a second person in two days to an Affordable Care Act navigator, both of whom have been listening to too much rhetoric around everything wrong with Obamacare. One person is losing coverage and does not know what to do and the other does not have coverage and had to forego buying much-needed medicines at the check out counter as the total due was over $200. Both are working, but are in low paying professions – one in a non-profit food bank and the other who has cleaning service business.
Each had no idea of what Obamacare could do for them having only heard the bad things about it. I shared with them that the two greatest benefits of Obamacare are geared to helping people in your situation. First, it has guaranteed issue coverage. As of January 1, 2014, both adults and children are guaranteed coverage even if they have a pre-existing condition. When people say their old individual policy was better or just as good, this is one area where it was not, as their policy did not guarantee coverage.
Second, if your income is beneath a certain level, you would have access to a subsidy. This makes the policy more affordable. If you have a family of four, your family income can be as much as $94,000, for example and some level of subsidy is available. It is less for a smaller family and more for a larger family. In states that have expanded Medicaid, the options for lower-income people are even better.
I told them I am just an informed citizen and I cannot give you advice. You can look online and do this yourself, but unfortunately, there is so much jargon, that you would be better served using a licensed navigator. I gave each the name and contact information of a navigator that I know who helps people with low incomes. She is an attorney by profession and works in a Legal Aid organization.
Why I am ticked off is people need to hear straight answers and not political doublespeak. These are people who need help. They do not need a political engine telling them what to do and not do. I told the last person whom I know, regardless of how you feel about President Obama and how you feel or what you have heard about Obamacare, you need to look into this. It is not perfect, it is complex and it was rolled out poorly, but you will likely benefit from this. I wrote a post earlier regarding younger folks being advised poorly when they need to make an informed choice.
As someone who has worked in benefits or benefits consulting for 33 years; as someone who was an actuary by profession during a significant part of his career; as someone who volunteers to help homeless families who have jobs and sees what having little or no healthcare can do; and as an Independent voter who tries to stay informed, let me say the following to anyone who will read or listen:
To advise someone to not consider a potential solution that may help them is inappropriate. To advise someone on something that you are not qualified to provide advice on is unprofessional. To advise someone for political reasons to not consider something is unethical. Note, in each of these conversations, I said you need to speak with navigator to see if this makes sense for you. To be frank, I am probably more conversant on this topic than most folks given my experience, but I am not licensed to give such advice, so I did not.
Let me close with a story that is making the rounds. A restaurant owner is being commended for selling his business to help a waitress of his that was diagnosed with cancer at the end of the year. His actions are meritorious. Yet, he did not need to sell his restaurant for that purpose. She could have signed up for Obamacare and would be guaranteed coverage. If he wanted to he could have given her money for the premiums.
People need to hear straight answers from leaders and not doublespeak. And, my strong advice to people is not to take the word of a politician on anything. Go talk to people who know what they are talking about and do not have an axe to grind. Most politicians are not as well versed on issues as you would hope them to be. Some may know more than others, but even if they do, you want someone to shoot straight with you and oftentimes, they are too beholden to a party line to give a straight answer. You deserve better answers to your questions.