By Lisa Zamosky
President Obama’s re-election, which ensures that the health reform law will continue to roll out, has brought many old questions about the law to the surface. Many people want to know: If I get my health insurance at work and I like my health plan, can I keep it?
In the early days of the law passing, Americans heard President Obama say that if you have insurance and you like your health plan, you can keep it.
Well, that led a lot of people to scratch their heads – in many cases, to cry foul – when they learned from one open enrollment season to the next that their health plan choices changed. What gives?
Keeping Employer-Based Insurance in Place
The majority of people in the U.S. – roughly 149 million Americans – get health insurance through their jobs. The health reform law sought to keep this country’s predominantly employer-based insurance system intact.
Although employers aren’t required under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to provide health insurance, starting in 2014 companies with more than 50 workers that don’t offer coverage may be required to pay a penalty.
Same as it Ever Was, Only Different
The fact is that before the ACA became law, employers offered employee health insurance with absolutely no requirement to do so. The primary reason has been to attract top talent. There’s no sign at this time – particularly among larger employers – that companies will change that strategy and stop offering benefits.
So, what is changing?
On the upside, the law provides some additional benefits to your job-based coverage that you likely didn’t have had before it passed, for example:
- Young adults not offered insurance at work can stay on their parents’ health plan up to age 26.
- The law got rid of lifetime caps on care; annual limits are also being phased out.
- All new health plans must now also offer preventive care services, such as cancer screenings, wellness visits and vaccinations with no co-pays or co-insurance (this doesn’t apply to plans with “grandfathered” status).
The downside is that there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to keep the exact health plan you currently have, whether you like it or not. Your employer is under no obligation to keep the same benefits in place. And, in fact, many companies are making fairly significant changes to the plans they offer, none of which have anything to do with health reform.
The biggest changes you’re likely to see with regard to your job-based health insurance include a switch to high deductible health plans – nearly 60% of employers offered this type of plan this year – and in general, rising costs.
The overall cost of health care has risen by 131% between 1999 and 2009, according to the Institute of Medicine, far greater than the rest of the economy. To offset their own cost increases, employers are asking workers to pick up a bigger portion of their health plan’s cost through higher deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance.
What changes have you seen in your employer-sponsored health plan? Share your comments in the section below.