Monday, December 11, 2017
Health

Expect interesting days after Obamacare marketplaces launch Oct. 1

A few weeks ago, we asked Tampa Bay Times readers for their questions about the Affordable Care Act marketplaces. This is where — after Oct. 1 — you can go to buy health insurance if you aren't covered through your job, Medicare or Medicaid.

I wondered about the reaction we'd get. This is the centerpiece of Obamacare, and the president's signature health plan inspires, shall we say, strong feelings.

We've had scores of questions, and I hope you've seen the responses from my colleague Angie Holan and me on our Thursday health pages. If not, we've compiled them at tampabay.com/obamacare, and plan to republish as many as we can in our upcoming special section about the Obamacare marketplaces. Watch for it in the Times on Sunday, Sept. 29.

Many of our correspondents did express strong feelings — mostly about their need for affordable health care.

(One anonymous emailer wrote that the law "funds advances in spiritual and moral leprosy,'' but I don't believe that would be a covered condition.)

Most people had more down-to-earth issues. Parents wanted to know how to get help for their adult children whose jobs don't offer insurance. Uninsured adults in their 50s and early 60s asked if they could get insurance even if they didn't have full-time jobs.

Several people wrote about friends who have no jobs, no money, and worry about being fined for not having insurance We quickly told them not to worry — those folks are exempt from the fine.

Others just worried about their low-income friends not having insurance, a particular problem here because Florida refused federal dollars to expand Medicaid, the health care program for the poor.

Unfortunately, we had no reassurance for these readers.

We received highly specific queries about tax credits and how they will be calculated.

And lots of questions about Medicare. I'll say it again: No, you cannot buy Medicare policies on the Obamacare marketplace. Carry on as you always have.

Many questions were complicated, requiring Angie and me to consult multiple sources. Sometimes our experts didn't entirely agree, so we kept digging.

I expect such conflicts will arise, and not just for reporters.

I've had insurance all my life, and coverage issues crop up no matter which company's name is on my insurance card. I complained just as much about the billing related to my broken finger this year as my mom did about paperwork for my wisdom teeth extraction in 1979.

Obamacare is based on private insurance. So why should we expect it to get any easier?

The big difference is that more people than ever will be signing up for coverage, so the process is bound to be interesting. But ultimately worthwhile, my friends who eagerly await insurance cards of their own would say.

I've heard pundits fret about whether the marketplaces will function properly on Oct. 1. None of our readers has asked this question. I suspect they're wise enough to expect challenges.

However you get your insurance, I hope your enrollment is as painless as possible. And if it's confusing, expensive, aggravating (or some word we can't print here), know that you have lots of company. Keep those emails coming, and maybe we can sort it out together.

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