Confusing issue PDF E-mail

The calendar continues to count down toward nationwide implementation of the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Much has been said and written since this historic legislation was passed in 2010, though the reality of how it will impact families and businesses is still largely unknown. What we do know is that applications for the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) will be accepted from businesses with fewer than 50 employees as of Oct. 1, 2013, which means millions of Americans are now trying to make plans and decisions for their future health care coverage.

That seems like a daunting challenge, especially when you hear members of Congress continue to debate the funding details, suggesting that the plan itself may be changed before the start date arrives. This massive reform came too fast for Congress to digest those details, let alone anxious Americans who want and need to know how their families will be covered in the years ahead.

Though the mandate to provide health insurance for employees has been postponed to Jan. 1, 2015, the time is now to seriously start paying attention, if you weren’t already.

The goal, as defined by the law itself, is to increase the quality and affordability of health insurance, lower the uninsured rate (there are an estimated 220,000 uninsured Nebraska citizens), and reduce the costs of health care for individuals and the government. It provides a number of mechanisms, including mandates, subsidies and insurance exchanges, to accomplish that goal. The law also requires insurance companies to cover ALL applicants within new minimum standards and offer the same rates, regardless of pre-existing conditions.

There is a great deal of new terminology involved, as well as options that may or may not apply to you, depending on a number of factors. It can all be a bit confusing, if not overwhelming.

In hopes of providing unbiased, factual stories on this most important issue, the News-Register, in partnership with press associations from Colorado and South Dakota, as well as the Nebraska Press Association Foundation and Commonwealth Fund, has announced plans to begin year two of the Rural Health News Services series.

National health reporters will create timely news stories, some with detailed graphics, to help all of us better understand the health issues in our community, state and nation. In reading the articles over the past year, we’ve found them to be well written and helpful.

We welcome your comments and ideas about this continued project.

Kurt Johnson

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