Obamacare and You: 10 Things You Should Know

It’s a landmark day in US history! The government shut down for the first time in 17 years and it’s the first day of open enrollment for the Affordable Healthcare (aka, Obamacare)! Woo-hoo!

imageYes, your kids can remain on your insurance until they’re 26, and pre-existing conditions will become a thing of the past, but there’s still so much scrutiny and confusion circling the Affordable Care Act (ACA), I thought it would be helpful to summarize the 10 things you really need to know. So here goes…

1. Obamacare is not free healthcare. The Affordable Care Act ensures affordable healthcare in the United States… not free healthcare. Health insurance plans are income based, so rates will vary.

2. Open enrollment begins October 1, 2013 but coverage doesn’t take effect until January 2014. The Affordable Care Act is a set of health insurance reforms passed in 2010 and will take effect beginning January 2014. Open enrollment for 2014 ends on 3/31/2014 for 2014.

3. The government shut down because of Obamacare, but it doesn’t impact ACA open enrollment. The last time the federal government shut down (12/15/1995 – 1/06/1996, it was over balancing the budget. This time around, the shutdown has nothing at all to do with balancing the budget. It’s all an intense political fight over Obamacare. Yep, the US government is shut down because our elected officials can’t agree on what’s in the best interest of their electors. Oh, but I digress. Even if you can’t visit your favorite national park or museum, or you have to take an unpaid “day off” if you’re a government employee, you can still sign up for health insurance today. Check out www.healthcare.gov (by the way, it’s one of few government websites actually functioning today).

4. If you already have group health insurance coverage through your employer (or your spouse’s employer), there’s nothing else you need to do. You’re all set!

5. If you aren’t already covered by an employer plan, you’ll most likely be required to have some form of health insurance beginning January 2014. Otherwise, you may have to pay a fee if you don’t have any health insurance coverage at that point.

6. Shop the Marketplace! The goal of the Affordable Care Act is to make it easier and more affordable for the roughly 15% of Americans who don’t have health insurance. To make that happen, the law provides for the creation of online Marketplaces where consumers can shop for insurance that meets their individual needs and budget. These Marketplaces vary by state. Shop the marketplace for your state right here.

7. Each coverage option will include the same basic set of benefits. They’ll be ranked according to premium levels: bronze being the lowest level and platinum being the highest level. The plans at the lower end will have higher deductibles and co-pays, and the plans at the higher end will have lower out-of-pocket costs at the time of treatment.

8. Private insurance is not going away. Plans will still be sold outside the Marketplace.  In 2014, health insurance companies selling plans outside the Marketplace must allow you to have open enrollment 30 days before your current individual plan renews. You will have up to 30 days after your plan ends to sign up for a new plan outside the Marketplace.

Outside of an open enrollment period, you may not be able to buy or change health plans inside or outside the Marketplace unless you experience certain qualifying life events (marriage, birth of a child, loss of other health coverage, etc.).

9. New protections start in 2014 for most plans. The ACA generally requires individual plans to provide certain protections and benefits starting in 2014. These include (but are not limited to):

The only individual plans that don’t have to provide these protections are grandfathered individual plans. These plans have existed pretty much unchanged since the ACA was passed in 2010. These plans don’t have to make any changes and you can keep the plan for as long as it’s offered, if you prefer.

10. You can apply online, by mail, or in-person.  Marketplace coverage can be applied for in any of these three ways with the help of a Navigator or other qualified helper. Telephone help and online chats are available 24/7 to help you complete your application. You can also have a paper application mailed to you by calling the call center at 1-800-318-2596.

For all the worry-warts out there, here’s the bottom line: there’s no need to panic, you aren’t going to pay more for coverage unless you want to switch to a better plan, and although the government shut down, the world hasn’t stopped turning. If you are one of the 85% of Americans who already has quality, affordable health insurance, you should have a working knowledge of the ACA, but you don’t have to worry about doing anything else. Simple as that! 😉


Count Your Blessings

Nowadays, Thanksgiving dinner is cut short by a multitude of kin rushing off to pre-Black Friday sales in a subconscious attempt to fill some emotional void via a discounted shopping experience. Many Americans are shopping for a piece of peace and going deep into debt in the process. So often, a sense of entitlement (believing you deserve to have more) and/or discontentment (being dissatisfied with what you do have) are the culprits for overspending- especially during the Holiday Season. Rather than focusing on all the stuff you can buy, I’d like to encourage you to begin shifting your focus to all the blessings bestowed upon you. An attitude of gratitude is a great way to eliminate entitlement and diminish discontent.

For the next 21 days, commit to counting your non-material blessings… you know, all the stuff that money can’t buy. Use the following as a guideline. Each day, write down a few sentences about why you’re grateful for that day’s respective blessing (indicated below). After 21 days, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the positive perspective you’ve gained from shifting your focus.

21 Days of Gratitude:

Day 1: Provision. Identify something that’s been provided for you- maybe something that you couldn’t do for yourself (ie., breath in your body, a bill paid on your behalf, etc.).

Day 2: Promise kept. Nobody likes broken promises. Think about one of God’s promises (and find the scripture to back it up), or a promise that someone made to you and fulfilled. How did it bless you and why?

Day 3: Physical ability.

Day 4: Personal touch. Babies are highly unlikely to grow into thriving, socially adept adults if they don’t experience the personal touch of a loved one. Personal touch is just that critical to human development! Who’s touch do you cherish? Whether the kiss of a spouse, the hug of a friend, the brush of your cat against your leg, or even the handshake of a trusted business partner, jot it down!

Day 5: Presence. Who’s presence brightens your day? How has this person been a blessing to your life? Take this one a step further and thank them!

Day 6: Problem solved. Consider a recent problem you faced that seemed impossible to solve. What was it, how long did it last, and how was it eventually solved? Praise the Lord for the solution!

Day 7: Prayer answered.

Day 8: Prayer “unanswered.” God answers all prayers; some just aren’t answered how we want them to be. Ever pray for something to happen or change, only to discover that you’re better off without it (or him/her)? Write it down and thank the Lord for “unanswered” prayers!

Day 9: Photo. What photo just blesses your socks off? Describe who or what is in the picture and why it’s so special to you.

Day 10: Pastor. Who is your Pastor and why are you grateful for him/her?

Day 11: Parameter. Without boundaries, we would live in a world of chaos. We need boundaries in our relationships, on our jobs, and on the highways and byways. Parameters are purposeful! What’s one parameter you are grateful for?

Day 12: Physical healing.

Day 13: Pardon received. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23) and our sins have consequences. Oh, but thanks be to God for His mercy (not giving you the penalty you deserve)! Think about a time when you were pardoned for something you were guilty of. Forgiveness is a powerful gift to give and  receive. No matter how big or small, jot it down and bless the Lord!

Day 14: Price paid. Write about a price that was paid on your behalf. This is an example of grace (receiving something you didn’t deserve/earn). Why was it such a blessing to you?

Day 15: Positive. Discuss something positive that happened to you today.

Day 16: Physical attribute. Which one of yours are you most delighted about? Don’t be shy!

Day 17: Passed test. Whether it was something school-related or a life lesson that you finally learned, consider why you’re so grateful for it. Praise the Lord you don’t have to repeat it!

Day 18: Patience. Impatience gets the best of us all from time to time. But when we’re on the receiving end of patience, it’s such a relief! Write about a time someone was patient with you. Why was it such a big deal and how did it make you feel?

Day 19: Protection. Who or what has protected you from danger and/or kept you out of harm’s way?

Day 20: Place. Can be your home, somewhere you visited, or even your place of employment. What about it makes you smile?

Day 21: Personal accomplishment. Identify it and describe it. What is it about this achievement that you are so grateful for?

We all have so much to be thankful for, yet in our humanness, we tend to take so much for granted. The more you focus on all your blessings, the less likely you’ll be to fall prey to draining discontentment, envy, jealousy, financial stress/anxiety, the evils of entitlement, or even the delusions of grandeur that blind most folks to the reality of their financial situation. You’ll smile more, complain less, begin to live within your means, and finally get out of debt (once and for all!). Invest a few minutes each day in sincere reflection of the P’s I’ve outlined above. Consider journaling and/or posting your thoughts on Facebook/Twitter, and encourage others to count their blessings with you. Gratitude is the gift that keeps on giving and peace is its by-product. Couldn’t you stand to experience a little more financial peace of mind? Count your blessings and your P’s for a great gratitude adjustment. 🙂