RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – When health insurance marketplaces associated with the Affordable Healthcare Act, commonly referred to Obamacare, opened earlier this month thousands of Americans without health insurance were given options to buy coverage – required by March 2014.
But Obamacare’s impact goes far beyond the millions of uninsured Americans. While most news stories focus on the impact of Obamacare through the prism of politicians screaming at each other, CBS 6 Political Reporter Joe St. George decided to look at the controversial issue by talking to people.
Health insurance means everything to Anne Maliff. Her son Nate was born with special needs.
He requires weekly physical therapy.
“His monthly medication bills, if I didn’t have health insurance, would be over $1,000,” Maliff said.
The mom said she was comforted knowing that under Obamacare, Nate could stay on her plan until he was 26 years old. She was also pleased Nate would never be denied coverage due to his pre-existing condition.
However, the law created a new set of worries for Maliff, mainly that somehow her husband’s company may change its health insurance plan or their premiums may go up as a result of Obamacare.
Businesswoman Marylou Paine is president of G.E Paine Electric Company in Ashland. If you speak with people like Marylou, you understand why people like Anne are worried.
Under Obamacare, if she has 50 employees by 2015, she must offer them all health insurance — or face a steep fine.
Paine said she already offers her 20 employees health insurance, but she is already feeling the sting of Obamacare.
That is because insurance agents told her they must raise rates on some of her healthy, twenty something employees to make up for losses after millions of “unhealthy” people now have health insurance due to the Affordable Care Act.
“I feel like I’m walking through a plarret field full of quicksand and landmines blindfolded,” Paine said about her situation. “We really do need to hire two new people, but our insurance agent verified back to me their insurance premium starting January 1 2015 will increase 75 percent.”
In a cost cutting move, the University of Virginia and UPS recently informed workers they could not carry spouses on their health insurance plans, unless they couldn’t find insurance elsewehere.
Rising health insurance rates also promoted businesses like Sears and Walgreens to restrict employees to health insurance available through the newly-created insurance exchange.
“You don’t think so much planning for the future as you do surviving today,” Paine said describing her attitude toward her business.
Dr. Randall Bashore, site Director
Internal Medicine at Central Virginia Community Health Center in Buckingham County, said getting more people on insurance exchanges created under Obamacare is not necessarily a bad thing.
“It’s change everybody is afraid of change,” Dr. Bashore said.
Dr. Bashore said the Virginia exchange is privately administered by insurance companies and run by the federal government.
He said they give people the same minimal standard of coverage as required by law, adding there are often tax credits provided to help ease costs.
“We have about 48,000 patients and of those 17,000 don’t have insurance, so we are very excited for the opportunities for our patients,” he said.
While Dr. Bashore is excited about what the law provides his patients, he is less thrilled with that it’s doing for his hospital.
“We are all struggling to recruit physicians,” he admitted.
Because Obamacare demands most Americans to have health insurance by March 2014, Bashore said there is trepidation among doctors to work in rural settings like his Buckingham clinic. Their concern is over increasing work loads and waiting rooms waits.
“It’s putting stressers on the system and we will have to work through all those stressers to meet the needs of our patients,” he said.
The Uninsured Worker
One new uninsured worker entering the health care system thanks to Obamacare is Sherree Wells.
Wells, 27, is pregnant and working, but uninsured and the poster child for why the Affordable Care Act was created by most Democrats in Congress in 2010.
“You actually have the opportunity to get affordable health care because I currently don’t have a job that offers health care,” she said.
But don’t think all 27 year olds without insurance are jumping for joy, health plans offered in Virginia’s new exchange don’t come free.
Uninsured Virginians, like Sherree, would need to come up with, on average, more than $100 a month to pay for health insurance.
Information about enrolling in Virginia’s new exchange can be found at healthcare.gov.