The Affordable Care Act and Florida

What most people know as ObamaCare is actually the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). On March 23rd of 2010, President Barack Obama signed this bill into law. The basic provisions of the law include the “individual mandate”, which requires people to maintain health insurance or pay a tax penalty, a provision which states that insurance cannot be denied because of pre-existing conditions, and other reforms to industry and public health insurance programs. It also gives 30 million additional people access to health insurance.

The law has come under fire, specifically the “individual mandate” provision of the act. The Supreme Court recently heard arguments about whether or not this section of the law is constitutional or not. They are planning on making a ruling at some point in June. Other federal courts have weighed in as well, with some upholding the bill and some having reservations.

The Affordable Care Act has been in place for over two years at this point, and while some of its provisions have not been implemented yet, it has had some positive effects on the people of Florida. The bill has forced insurance companies to not drop coverage if you get sick and has attempted to stop the practice of creating bankruptcies due to their billing practices. Below are some of the other ways Florida residents, and specifically low-income families have been affected by the act:

  • The new law has given a $250 credit to over 250,000 people on Medicare to help with the cost of their prescriptions. I n 2011 about the same amount of people got a fifty percent discount on name brand medicines. Total savings from this provision are over $140 million.
  • Insurers are now required to keep their customers children without jobs on their plans until the age of 26. Over 150,000 young Floridians have insurance because of this provision.
  • Community health centers are directly affected by the Affordable Care Act, receiving a larger amount of funding because of it. There are 391 such centers in Florida and they have received over $80 million so far to create centers in low-income areas of the state.
  • The act provides new Federal Medicaid funding, which means that this is the first time that every low income person in the state has access, no matter what their age or illness.
  • The new law seeks to protect consumers from the unfair practices of insurance companies, specifically those who fall under the low-income category.
  •  Insurers can no longer drop customers because they have developed an illness. This protects over one million people who have purchased individual plans.
  • Children can no longer be left off of insurance plans because they have a pre-existing condition.
  • No more lifetime limits on the amount of coverage an insurer will provide. Almost 9 million Florida residents no longer need to worry about going bankrupt if they get a severe illness.
  • Women who need to see an gynocologist or those who need emergency care will benefit from a provision that makes it easier for patients to choose doctors, eliminating the need for recommendations and prior authorization.

Starting in July, the federal government will provide over $350 million to help transition those people who are uninsured because of pre-existing conditions. These people will be placed in a high-risk pool plan until 2014 when all insurance companies will be required to insure them. The federal government is completely funding this provision.

The provision has numerous tax credits for small businesses who want to provide insurance to their employees. Small businesses pay way more than large ones for the same coverage and health insurance costs have been rising at three times the rate of salaries for at least ten years. This should allow almost 300,000 small businesses in Florida to start offering coverage to their workers.

Many poor areas of Florida do not have enough doctors and health care professionals. The Affordable Care Act provides money for loan repayments and scholarships for those nurses and doctors who decide to work in these areas. It is estimated that over 15% of the state is considered lower-income and underserved.

No longer will insurers be allowed to charge for preventative care. Cost-sharing and deductibles have been removed for basic preventative care procedures such as colonoscopies. This affects over five million people with Medicare and private insurance.

The Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare as it more popularly known, has only been around for two years. Many of its’ provisions have yet to be implemented, yet it is already having profound effects on the health care system of Florida. The coming years will give a better indication of all the various implications for the residents of Florida.