Health care uncertainty
Reports indicate that President Obama's health care overhaul may be difficult to apply for and expensive for some Americans.
A couple of developments last week illustrate the difficulty of implementing such a far-reaching and complex plan as President Obama's Affordable Care Act, which is supposed to expand coverage to nearly 30 million uninsured people.
The enrollment season for uninsured Americans starts Oct. 1, and it may be that they will find the application process for benefits daunting. And some Americans could see their health insurance bills double as the law expands coverage.
According to the Associated Press, the government's draft application for benefits runs 15 pages for a three-person family, and an outline of the online version has 21 steps, some with additional questions. At least three federal agencies, including the IRS, will scrutinize applications. People who apply online are supposed to have their identity, income and citizenship checked in real time.
And this is just the first part of the process, which lets applicants know if they qualify for financial help. But it's necessary since the health care law is means-tested, with more assistance to pay premiums going to lower-income people. Actually picking a plan will require additional steps.
Advocates are concerned that many lower-income people will just give up because the process is so complex, and they're calling on the government to simplify the form and provide counselors to those who need help.
The nation's largest insurers, meanwhile, warned that premiums for some people could rise by 20 to 100 percent for millions of people when key provisions of the health care law take effect next January.
Although there are not expected to be across-the-board rate hikes, some of the roughly 14 million people who buy their own insurance as opposed to being covered under employer-sponsored plans and some employees of smaller companies could see dramatic premium increases because of changes to how insurers set premiums according to age and gender, a new tax on premiums and requirements that insurance plans in many cases cover more health care or pay a greater share of a patient's bill than they do now. The Obama administration says that taken as a whole, the health care law will reduce costs for young people and families.
There's a lot we don't know yet about the specifics of Obamacare, but one thing we know for sure is that the uncertainty causes problems for individuals and businesses.