The Life of Julia Under ObamaCare: Will She Pay More, Will Her Personal Information Be Secure, Will She Have Access To Quality Health Care?
Today, the ObamaCare exchanges – where Americans have to go to sign up for Washington-mandated insurance – go live. With delays for large businesses, delays for small businesses, delays for some of the state exchanges themselves, the question is what happens to the average American trying to sign up?
Last year, President Obama rolled out the “Life of Julia” to try to garner support for his deeply unpopular signature domestic policy achievement. With a whopping $2.6 trillion price tag, this law includes 20,000 pages of new regulations and over $1 trillion in new taxes. But where’s Julia now? What has been her experience trying to get her Washington-mandated health care?
Let’s take a look:
After Julia is kicked off her employer-sponsored health insurance, who explains how to sign up for ObamaCare?
THE CHALLENGE: Julia will be assigned to a navigator – those tasked with assisting the uninsured in determining what type of coverage they qualify for. These individuals will have access to her personal information, such as her Social Security number and household income.
While Members of Congress have warned the weak privacy protections that cut corners on background checks for navigators coupled with inadequate training could potentially put consumers at risk of fraud and identity theft, the Administration has refused to improve the hiring and training requirements for navigators.
THE BOTTOM LINE: An unqualified navigator, or an impostor posing as a counselor or outreach personnel, could easily get access to Julia’s private information and steal her identity, bank account information, creating a nightmare for Julia to fix.
Is the exchange in Julia’s state ready?
THE CHALLENGE: Not all of the exchanges are ready to launch today. Idaho, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado and the District of Columbia, for example, have already delayed launching their exchanges.
According to the New York Times, “many of the 16 directors of state-run exchanges are describing October as a “soft launch” period, when Americans can start exploring their coverage options — but on Web sites that may be incomplete, vulnerable to glitches and perhaps not ready for an onslaught of customers.”
The Head of Oregon’s exchange said, “I have no idea what this thing’s going to look like on Oct. 1….We could crash and burn and have to close it down.”
THE BOTTOM LINE: Julia might not even be able to sign up on October 1, because of significant problems with the exchanges.
What happens now that Julia has selected a plan on the exchange?
Will her personal data be secure?
THE CHALLENGE: Julia’s personal information - Social Security number, tax returns etc. -- will be entered into the Federal Data Services Hub (Data Hub) -- a new information sharing network that allows other state and federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Homeland Security, to verify a person’s information.
While the Obama Administration has said that testing has been completed, certification to operate has been granted and that the Data Hub is operational and ready to go, no independent watchdog, like the Government Accountability Office (GAO), has yet verified the security operation or made recommendations to better safeguard and guarantee the privacy of consumers.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Absent an independent review, there is no way of knowing if the exchanges have adequate safeguards to protect and secure consumers’ personal information. Launching the Data Hub with an unproven security system means Julia’s personal and financial records are at serious risk.
Will she get subsidies?
THE CHALLENGE: Julia may be eligible to receive a subsidy, or a tax credit designed to defray the cost of purchasing health insurance, based on how much she earns. These tax credits are both advanceable and refundable, meaning the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will pay them first and verify the claims for them later, what some call "pay and chase."
THE BOTTOM LINE: Julia could receive a bigger subsidy than she actually qualifies for and end up OWING the federal government money next tax season.
Will Julia have the same quality health care she had?
THE CHALLENGE: Insurance exchanges will have fewer health insurance providers than before ObamaCare. According to an analysis by the Senate Finance Committee Minority Staff, 75 percent of states with federal health exchanges will have less than the 53 plan average announced by the White House.
Even more, there will be fewer provider networks in the exchanges. Insurers are keeping premiums low by reducing the number of doctors and hospitals covered by the insurance plans. The only insurer of the New Hampshire exchange, for example, is excluding 10 of the 26 hospitals in the state. And, Blue Cross Blue Shield in California’s exchange plans will only have 53 percent of the doctors and 74 percent of the hospitals that their broadest non-exchange plans.
THE BOTTOM LINE: With fewer choices in the exchanges, Julia may have limited access to quality health care.
Will Julia have to pay more for her health care than she did when she have insurance through her employer?
THE CHALLENGE: While some Americans might receive cheaper insurance than they otherwise would have, the majority of Americans will face higher insurance rates. The Manhattan Institute found individual market premiums will increase 99 percent for men and 62 percent for women nationwide.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Depending on her plan, Julia may very well end up paying more out of pocket for her health care that she did before ObamaCare.