Key part of health care reform kicks in soon - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Key part of health care reform kicks in soon


New Orleans, La. — Despite the ongoing battle on Capitol Hill over the nation's health care reform law, most Americans soon will be able to buy insurance through the health insurance marketplace.

Enrollment in health insurance exchanges begins on October 1. Some people analyzing the health care reform law believe the success of the exchanges hinges on having a large number of healthy, young adults buy insurance to help keep costs down.

"The premise of expanding coverage means that everybody needs to buy in…and because Louisiana is choosing not to run their own exchange, the federal government will step in," said Mollye Demosthenidy, a clinical assistant professor at Tulane's School of Public Health.

As an attorney, Demosthenidy once represented hospitals and physician groups. She said there will be subsidies to help people foot the cost of getting health insurance.

"For those that are below 400 percent of the federal government poverty level, including a lot of young adults probably just out of school, they'll be eligible for premium assistance and also cost-sharing subsidies," she stated.

On January 1, the mandate requiring most Americans to have health insurance takes effect.

"Some people will have to pay a penalty if they don't get insurance…Now, those penalties aren't really big, so it's not really clear that some people won't say, 'I 'd rather pay 90 bucks or a hundred bucks than to have to buy insurance for 1200 bucks or whatever," said Walter Lane, chairman of the Department of Economics at UNO.

Professor Lane said it remains to be seen how the U.S. economy will be impacted once most Americans are required to have health insurance. "It's an open question as to how many private insurers are going to try to enter this marketplace and sell these plans," he said.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama said other facets of the law are already having a positive impact on the middle class. He touted the fact that millions of Americans are receiving refunds under the health care reform law from their insurance companies, because not enough of their clients' premiums went towards health care costs.

"So this is just an example of how the Affordable Health Care Act is doing what it's designed to do - deliver more choices, better benefits and a check on rising costs and higher quality health care," the president said.

But the GOP-controlled U.S. House of Representatives maintains the law is seriously flawed. Wednesday, the House voted to push the requirement that most people have insurance back a year.

"How can a president say he's looking out for average Americans when he threatens to veto the measures of basic fairness? I think it's appalling," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Demosthenidy said, from a public health perspective, the more people that can be insured, the better. But some people have concerns about whether the health care community is ready to service the additional millions who will be insured.

"It's getting there. It'll be interesting to see, and I think no one's exactly certain what the landscape will look like once more people are insured," said Demosthenidy.

Professor Lane questioned whether the exchanges will be set up in time for October.

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