19 Jul 2012

What’s next?

19 Jul 2012

“They upheld the ruling” my partner woke me up saying. “The entire thing?” I asked still half asleep. “Yes, get up, it’s all over the internet.” Good morning to you too I thought. I got up and went straight to Facebook, I thought of course one of my friends must have posted something about the decision. But other than a few crazy cat videos and rants about Facebook’s new “pay to promote posts” policy, it didn’t seem like any of my friends were as excited as I was about healthcare reform. Then I saw Brad’s post “Supreme Court Upholds Obamacare“, and that made me happy to have a Facebook friend that was into healthcare as much as I was.

As the day progressed I read a variety of opinion pieces, some praising the Supreme Court’s decision, others saying this was a bad day for freedom. So just as I started my day searching for the reactions of my peers was the same way I continued my day poring through articles. I wanted to know how the general public felt about the decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act.

AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson did a great job in here piece “Americans react to historic health care decision.” Seven Americans were asked what their thoughts were on the legislation. From a stay at home mom to a recent law school graduate, Johnson profiles a wide spectrum of citizens to provide an interesting mix of reactions. In Johnson’s piece I learned that individual reactions depended on current personal circumstances. Much more than political affiliations, or perspectives on freedom of choice, for many of us it’s all about where we are in our lives right now and what the direct impact is on us.

I’m young and in relatively good shape. I see my doctor about once or twice a year. A few years ago I tore a tendon in my right leg while playing soccer. I was rushed to the emergency room, had surgery a few weeks later, and then had almost 6 months of physical therapy. Before this accident, and even during the first few months of my recovery, I didn’t know the true value of health insurance. Other than having someone to get a valid doctor’s note from, I didn’t really understand why these large sums were being taken from my paycheck twice a month. But then five months into my recovery I started receiving the bills. $900 for ambulance fees, $2700 for emergency room visit, and a whopping $33,000 for the surgery. Without my employer sponsored plan I would have been responsible for more than $40,000 in fees, not including physical therapy and other miscellaneous costs. Thankfully I also had a couple AFLAC policies at the time, which reimbursed me for a variety of my expenses. I ended up paying about $4300 out of pocket, not much more than 10 percent of the full cost. This one experience single handedly shaped my perspective on health insurance: mandatory. From then on, I have never let any time lapse in between coverage and when President Obama introduced his healthcare overhaul plan I was on board from day one.

Now that the law has been upheld, I wonder about two things: what effect the November elections will have if any, and what’s next for us here in California. Approximately 19 percent of California residents do not have any form of health insurance coverage, and the state is set to receive 15 billion in federal funds to build the state’s health insurance system. The California Health Benefit Exchange estimates the number of eligible residents to be about 5 million in 2019. This figure includes 3.1 million residents who will buy subsidized coverage via the exchange, and another 1.5 million Californians who will sign on to Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program.

Currently I have a health insurance plan I purchased on the individual market, and right now I’m also wondering what effect the law will have on my premiums when it takes full effect in 2014. Will there still be plans that are comprehensive and affordable? I guess I’ll just have to wait and see exactly how Obamacare affects the healthcare industry. So far the changes have been good: increased healthcare transparency, insurers are offering better customer service, and there are many efforts being made to rein in healthcare costs. The Supreme Court’s decision was just a benchmark in the healthcare industry’s overall transformation. Up next, implementation.

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