By: Lisa Zamosky
Now that the presidential election is over and President Obama will remain in office, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is moving forward.
That has people wondering once again what the health reform law really has in store for them.
WebMD posted a survey asking readers the most pressing questions they have about what the election results mean for health care. One topic at the top of many reader’s minds is health care costs. They want to know: how much will insurance cost me under health reform?
The answer: It depends.
Insurance at Work
If you get insurance through your job, your costs may continue to rise, just as they have every year, at least in the immediate future (although the past few years has seen health care costs grow more slowly than in the past 50 years). That’s because employers are shifting more costs onto employees through higher deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance.
The health reform law does put in place a number of structural changes to the way health care is delivered and paid for, as well as limits on how much insurers can charge, that aim to lower overall health care costs. If these efforts are successful, health insurance premiums should cost less, the thinking goes. That, of course, remains to be seen.
Public Programs for People of Low Income
The Medicaid program, which provides insurance coverage to people of low income, will be expanded to cover anyone with an annual income of up to 138% of the poverty level, or about $15,415 per year for an individual.
It was initially projected that the law’s Medicaid expansion would ultimately provide health insurance to an additional 17 million people nationwide.
But this summer, the Supreme Court ruled that states have the right to opt out of the law’s Medicaid expansion. In response, six Republican-governed states said they would not expand their programs. If they stick to their guns, people living in Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas who would have otherwise qualified for Medicaid may be out of luck.
Tax Breaks for the Middle
The law also offers tax credits for millions of Americans who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid to help lower costs
The credits will be available to people who purchase a health plan through one of the online insurance markets that will be set up in 2014, and who earn as much $90,000 a year for a family of four. Those offered insurance at work who have premiums that exceed 9.5% of their income also could qualify to buy insurance on the new markets and get tax breaks to lower their costs.
I’ll be writing about the issue of health care costs in greater detail in the coming days. So stay tuned, and feel free to keep asking your questions.