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Confusion, relief mark start of new health reforms

By Juliet Williams

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 12:49 p.m. HST, Jan 02, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. » After a troubled rollout, President Barack Obama's health care overhaul now faces its most personal test: How will it work as people seek care under its new mandates?

Most major pieces of the Affordable Care Act take full effect with the new year. That means people who had been denied coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition can book appointments and get prescriptions.

Caps on yearly out-of-pocket medical expenses will mean people shouldn't have to worry about bankruptcy after treatment for a catastrophic illness or injury. And all new insurance policies must offer a minimum level of essential benefits, ranging from emergency room treatment to maternity care.

The law's benefits apply to individual policies as well as those offered through employers.

But one benefit didn't take effect as expected after Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor late Tuesday night temporarily blocked the part of the law requiring some religious-affiliated organizations to provide their workers with insurance that includes birth control. Government officials have until Friday to respond to her emergency stay.

Administration officials said this week that 2.1 million consumers have enrolled through the federal and state-run health insurance exchanges that are a central feature of the Affordable Care Act. Millions more have been enrolled in Medicaid, after the federal law allowed states to expand the health insurance program for the poor.

Yet how many of those who signed up for coverage on the exchanges will follow through and pay their premiums will not be known for a couple of weeks. People who signed up on the federal website have until Jan. 10 to pay premiums for coverage retroactive to Jan. 1, while consumers in some states have until Jan. 6.

Those who enrolled during the exchanges' first three months, persisting through serious technological problems and jammed call center phone lines, are probably motivated to make sure they have a policy in place as soon as possible, said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, which advocates for lower-income people and supports the federal health care changes.

"These are people who made a point of signing up and signing up before the deadline so they could start on Jan. 1. That suggests to me that that will be a population that is more likely to follow through with the payment," he said.

Premiums paid after the deadline will be applied to coverage starting Feb. 1 or later. Consumers have until March 31 to sign up in time to avoid a federal tax penalty for remaining uninsured. That fine starts at $95 for an individual this year but climbs rapidly, to a minimum of $695 by 2016. There is an additional fine for parents who do not get health insurance for their children.

Although the federal website is apparently fixed for consumers, the start of the year still could bring plenty of confusion.

Insurers say they are receiving thousands of erroneous sign-up applications from the government, and some people who thought they had enrolled for coverage have not received confirmation. Undoubtedly, some will find out they don't have the immediate coverage they thought they did.

Some states, including Minnesota and Rhode Island, extended their sign-up period until the final day of 2013, leading to a last-minute crush of paperwork for insurers. Call center wait times in Minnesota extended beyond two hours on Tuesday, a possible sign of heavy consumer interest.

Anticipating disruptions, major drug store chains such as CVS and Walgreens have announced they will help customers who face coverage questions, even providing temporary supplies of medications without insisting on up-front payment. Many smaller independent pharmacies also are ready to help.

Some parts of the Affordable Care Act took effect previously, such as the ability of young people to remain on their parents' insurance policies until age 26.

Others have been delayed until 2015, including the law's requirement that companies with 50 or more workers must provide affordable coverage or pay fines. The administration says it's trying to iron out burdensome reporting requirements.

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Maipono wrote:
Ironically, although I may be considered a sign up, I won't be receiving coverage until later this year, even though I attempted to sign up before December 31, 2013. After numerous calls to the "administrator" explaining my problem, I got a "We'll call you back with the answer...." and as you might guess, still no call. Thanks Mr. President for everything, have a great vacation.
on January 2,2014 | 04:55AM
Maipono wrote:
Actually, I tried to sign up before December 23, 2013, and not December 31, 2013.
on January 2,2014 | 04:56AM
palani wrote:
"Health overhaul"? Only if one defines "overhaul" as the first steps towards destroying what was once the best healthcare system in the world.
on January 2,2014 | 05:37AM
ehrhornp wrote:
Perhaps the best health care if you have tons of money. Pathetic if you have limited assets and income. This republican invention is a tiny step towards fixing our broken system.
on January 2,2014 | 06:13AM
peanutgallery wrote:
ehrhornp, your lunacy never ceases to amaze. Gets some help for your Kool-Aid addiction. Find a 12 step.
on January 2,2014 | 01:36PM
ehrhornp wrote:
Still in denial are we? Hopefully you will get some help for your hatred.
on January 3,2014 | 06:22AM
loio wrote:
DISASTER! Not everyone deserves the same level of (crappy) health care any more than everyone deserves to drive the same kind of car or all eat the same quality of food. I get up at 4 a.m. to work, and oftentimes work on Saturdays and Sundays as well, just like I've done for the past 30 years, so that I can afford to pay for health insurance, good health insurance, for myself and my children. A compassionate society guarantees a BASIC level of health services, and if you really look into you'd realize that through various laws, programs, subsidies and realities ... we do that. But repeat, health care is not a "right" any more than owning a BMW is, and I resent like hell Big Brother screwing up my health care so that, in effect, everybody has the right to equally lousy health care. If you study hard, work hard, sacrifice hard, you are (or should be) entitled to better. Obamacare sucks. Big time.
on January 2,2014 | 06:52AM
cojef wrote:
It is a misnomer to title the law as the Affordable Care Act. More like Mandatory Care Act as one has no choice, you must enroll or else, you are assessed a fine. For over 20 years have had the same health insurance carrier and coverage and starting this coming year, have experienced a heftier increase in premium cost than the normal, averaging around 4%. This coming year it jumped up to nearly 10% and according to the poop sheet sent by the health insurance provider we are covered for trans-gender procedures which we do not need, but mandated. The jump in premium cost is attributable for procedure we do not need. Like you, I would rather have something that we need, not something mandated or have no choice in the matter. I too prefer to drive an auto that I want to drive, not Government telling me I should drive a Chevy because the Government bailed them out. Perhaps a Ford, who did not ask for the Government handout. Shouldn't cheat but we drive MB.
on January 2,2014 | 07:45AM
honopic wrote:
Now who's the show-off?
on January 2,2014 | 10:20AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
What is MB?
on January 2,2014 | 11:43AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
HonHi. It's a German car company.
on January 2,2014 | 12:07PM
ehrhornp wrote:
You really should be calling this Nixon care as he is the one who first proposed it. I don't want Obama charged with plagiarism when the program succeeds.
on January 2,2014 | 08:01AM
st1d wrote:
nixon's health plan concentrated on providing health care for the uninsured without dismantling the existing health care choices or forcing predatory premiums for health insurance policies of the nation's citizens.

obama's plan crushes all citizens into low health coverage with inflated premium costs and stunning deductibles.

on January 2,2014 | 08:30AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
It took five years before ClintonCare blew up (Bill's initiative on allowing all Americans to own homes). ObamaCare sounds eerily similar: allowing all Americans the same health care. Last time I heard of all people having the same stuff: socialism, as in Nazi, the National Socialistic Party led by Adolph Hitler. Barry you became POTUS, no need to become King Obama, otherwise you will soon find yourself behind the Impeachment 8 ball.
on January 2,2014 | 11:48AM
ehrhornp wrote:
Obviously you don't know what socialism is or that Nixon care was proposed as America's answer to a single pay health system. Kinda stupid to call it socialism.
on January 3,2014 | 06:26AM
ehrhornp wrote:
Which is the main point of Obama care. Providing insurance for the uninsured. It will probably work, just not as well as a single payer system. Will be an improvement.
on January 3,2014 | 06:25AM
tutulois wrote:
It was NOT the best healthcare system -- we spent more and had less to show for it (incuding a 3rd world country infant mortality rate) than any other developed country in the world. NOW at least people won't have to go bankrupt over medical bills, people with pre-existing conditions can get coverag, insurers can't drop you when you get sick.
on January 2,2014 | 08:12AM
Matsu wrote:
Tutulois- have you ever lived abroad? I have, and I can guarantee that the medical care in the US has been the best. Don't believ the liberal talking points. I have lived in both the UK and Japan, and I can tell you, I was appalled at what they considered to be good healthcare. There were any number of times I put off care and waited until returning to the states.
on January 2,2014 | 11:07AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Best care: gorge yourself with Natto (staple in Japan).
on January 2,2014 | 11:41AM
ehrhornp wrote:
I know my brother had to rely upon socialized medicine in Italy when he became Ill there on vacation. He survived.
on January 3,2014 | 06:29AM
Ronin006 wrote:
It was the best health care system for people who worked for a living and paid for their own health care or had it provided by their employers.
on January 2,2014 | 11:54AM
Matsu wrote:
And for those that don't work, they could simp[y walk into a ER, and the hsopital could not turn them away
on January 2,2014 | 02:50PM
SteveToo wrote:
all new insurance policies must offer a minimum level of essential benefits, ranging from emergency room treatment to maternity care. I'm 70. What the heck do I want w/maternity care?
on January 2,2014 | 08:17AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Maybe daughters under 27, who are on their parents' health plan, may find it a heck-of-a life saver.
on January 2,2014 | 08:59AM
calentura wrote:
The daughters that lost their jobs and healthcare because of Obamacare..?
on January 2,2014 | 10:39AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Since you had to think hard to make up a question, think hard again to make up an answer.
on January 2,2014 | 11:12AM
SteveToo wrote:
Show's the stupidity of Liberals. There is no need for one policy to fit all. Much better if you could pick what you need. I have no daughters under 27. I have no daughters or sons living w/me. So tell me Mr Liberal why do I need that coverage??
on January 2,2014 | 11:40AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
I know why steveto don't have daughters or sons living with him.
on January 2,2014 | 12:12PM
hanalei395 wrote:
Sons or/and daughters, under 27, don't have to live with their parents to be on the parents' health plan.
on January 2,2014 | 01:13PM
Matsu wrote:
Probably because he taught them how to be self-sufficient. Maybe we all should try that.
on January 2,2014 | 02:52PM
hanalei395 wrote:
The same reason why you have Social Security or a pension. The people who died or will die before they collect what they put into it, are helping to support you. You are collecting or will collect thousands of times more of what you, yourself, invested into it.. Depending on how long you live.
on January 2,2014 | 12:27PM
CEI wrote:
Oops, your claim that "You are collecting or will collect thousands of times more of what you, yourself, invested into it" is demonstrably false. I have paid $96000 into the "system" since I began working. I will collect $2500 per month at age 67. A little 3rd grade math indicates I will have collected $905760 assuming I live until 97 which probably will not happen. So that's less than 10 times what I put in, not thousands as you proclaim. I have to give you credit however. In the best tradition of democrat politicians you just throw out a figure like that knowing most of your constituents are too dumb or lazy to question it.
on January 2,2014 | 02:03PM
hanalei395 wrote:
$96,000 vs $905,760. 2nd grade math indicates you'll make out. And that's way less than 30 years. (What you put in, so far $96,000, and you retire at 67 and $2500 per month, you will get it back in less than 4 years). Providing you're still living.
on January 2,2014 | 02:27PM
hanalei395 wrote:
CEI.......too dumb or lazy to learn math ... 2nd or 3rd grade math.
on January 2,2014 | 06:33PM
ehrhornp wrote:
The stupidity is in today's republicans who have rejected past republicans. Never in my life did I think that Nixon would be the last republican president who was somewhat good.
on January 3,2014 | 06:31AM
ehrhornp wrote:
I just love phony conservatives who are so willing to destroy one of their own. Tricky Dick was hardly a liberal. But in answer to your comment, I will just refer you to what the head of Honda once said. Amazing how cheap additions are when they are in all cars. Same would apply to medical coverage. Cover everything and the cost will be less.
on January 3,2014 | 07:16AM
Ronin006 wrote:
That is fine, hanalei395, so let them pay for maternity care. Why should I have to pay for something I cannot use so that someone down the street can get it?
on January 2,2014 | 11:58AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Someone down the street thanks you.
on January 2,2014 | 12:37PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Right, and they are the same people who thank me for all the other free stuff they get from the government, which really means me and other tax payers.
on January 2,2014 | 02:49PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Your new 24 year old wife.
on January 2,2014 | 11:39AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
As the saying goes, one can lead a horse to water, however one cannot make the horse drink water.
on January 2,2014 | 11:29AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
What am I saying? Those without health insurance are more than likely those without means, so how could Obama think that setting up a website will help those that want to sign up? Those without means probably do not have access to the Internet. ObamaCare is more looking like Clinton's initiative to allow all Americans to own homes and looked what happened starting in 2003 and ultimately collapsing the world economy starting in 2007 with Lehman Brothers on the forefront. Source: Fortune magazine's documentary on the housing crisis on CNN.
on January 2,2014 | 11:36AM
SteveToo wrote:
Obama Care would have been more acceptable if it didn't mess w/all the people that were happy w/what they already had.
on January 2,2014 | 11:43AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Happy UNITIL they found out (after they got really sick or injured) what their junk "health plan" really covered. And being kicked out because of they getting really sick or injured.
on January 2,2014 | 01:44PM
Matsu wrote:
Let ME choose which JUNK plan I want. The Gov't should not be in a position to choose for me. This is supposed to be a FREE country. If I choose to have a particiular plan that should be my decision. I am now in my late 50's and never onec havce I received poor medical treatment. That is not the case when I lived oversaes.
on January 2,2014 | 02:57PM
Ronin006 wrote:
All new insurance policies must offer a minimum level of essential benefits, ranging from emergency room treatment to maternity care. What makes maternity care an essential benefit for a guy? It is not, but the government has mandated that it be included in health insurance policies for everyone, regardless of gender or post child bearing age. If that makes sense to you, it may be why mental health also is an essential benefit of Obamacare.
on January 2,2014 | 11:51AM
CEI wrote:
This monstrosity like social security would be fine with me if there were an opt out choice. If people want central government control of as many aspects of their lives as possible well let them have it. But if on the other hand you would like control of your own destiny you should be able to do that too. I've been contributing to social security for decades. I would rather have that money to spend or invest as I see fit rather than the government holding it on to it for me as if I'm not responsible to do it myself.
on January 2,2014 | 12:41PM
hanalei395 wrote:
The Tea Party "orders" to the government........ "Hands off our Social Security and Medicare".
on January 2,2014 | 01:18PM
Matsu wrote:
hanalei- The Tea Party simply wants our Federal Gov't to to follow the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Nothing more, nothing less. It is the Left that has portrayed the Tea Party as radical. If you think the US Constitution and the Bill of Right is a crazy, radical solution, then you too are following the left down the rabbit hole.
on January 2,2014 | 03:01PM
Waimanalodayz1 wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on January 2,2014 | 01:30PM
ehrhornp wrote:
I think you need to find a new accountant. Also how much more are you making today as compared to before?
on January 3,2014 | 07:25AM
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