Parts of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, have already been in place for over a year. And the biggest part of it, the Open Enrollment period for the state-run health-insurance marketplaces, is off to a rocky start, thanks to a glitchy website.
But the fact is, most Americans may still not understand what the law means. Nearly 70% of people polled recently admitted that they had only “some” understanding of the actual specifics. And with so many politicians on both sides of the issue saying so much about it, a lot of which is completely untrue, it’s no wonder that people are confused and afraid.
Here’s a quick look at some questions and answers that should hopefully set your mind at ease.
1. I heard that my taxes will be going up. Is this true?
It’s true if you are considered a high-earner – a single person making over $200,000 or a married couple making over $250,000 per year. If you fall into this category, you will see 2 increases in your income taxes.
The first is an incremental 3.8% on your investment income, which includes interest, dividends and capital gains. Instead of paying 15% on that income like lower-earners will pay, you will pay 18.3%.
The second difference is that you will pay an incremental 0.9% in Medicare taxes on your income that exceeds $200,000. So whereas you pay 1.45% on the income under the threshold, you will pay 2.35% on the income.
If you earn less than those income levels, you will not see any increase in your taxes.
If you itemize your deductions and generally can take a medical deduction, or if you use either a Flexible Spending Account or a Health Savings Account for your medical expenses, you will see some small adjustments to the way these deductions work when you file your income taxes. But these adjustments are minor.
2. I heard the government will be making decisions about who gets treatment and who doesn’t. Is this true?
Here’s where the infamous “death panels” came into the story. For some reason, certain politicians decided it would be fun to scare their constituents by proposing ridiculous claims, such as, “If you’re too old, you won’t be eligible for certain treatments, you will just be left to die.”
Completely untrue. The ACA does not change how your medical treatment is delivered. AT ALL. The law only pertains to the way that health insurance policies can be structured and paid for.
The decisions about what treatment you receive and how will still be made between you and your provider. The government has no input now, and will have no input in the future.
3. I heard illegal aliens will be eligible for free coverage.
Also not true. The same politicians who scared you with the death panels also think it’s funny to get you all riled up about undocumented immigrants. Only legal immigrants will be eligible for coverage; undocumented immigrants are specifically excluded.
4. I heard my tax dollars will go to funding abortions, even though I am pro-life.
Not true. The law that currently exists is not being changed. It prohibits federal dollars from being used to fund abortions except in the case of incest, rape, or danger to the mother’s life.
5. I’m retired and on Medicare, and I heard my benefits will be cut.
Nope. No reductions are being made to traditional Medicare benefits.
6. I already have coverage through my employer that I like. Will I have to change?
Your coverage will have to change if your employer’s current plan does not meet the minimum standard of care that is specified in the law. Those plans must be discontinued or re-worked to provide all of the mandated coverage.
Your premiums might increase a bit, and your coverage may actually get better. But even if you have good coverage, you should check out the new exchange-based options, because you might find something even better.