Obamacare in 2014: A Year of Speculation Awaits

Source: https://www.healthcare.gov/

Source: https://www.healthcare.gov/

The never-ending parade of hoops and loops Obamacare must jump through will not end with 2013. The continuous cycle of 2014 will make 2013′s dates a mere test run by comparison. The first, of course, is January 1 and the days that follow. Coverage can begin on this day for individuals who met the ever-changing deadlines for selection and payment.

Additionally, new insurance plans can no longer deny coverage to a person with pre-existing conditions, Medicaid will expand in half of the states, the small business tax credit kicks in, cost-savings through subsidies for marketplace plans begin, and insurance companies can no longer set a limit on much they will spend on your health coverage during your life — although they can still set yearly limits.

The administration has a goal of decreasing the costs of healthcare and providing more coverage. The days and analysis after the January 1 deadline will provide a better picture of whether or not this benchmark can be achieved.

Sign-up for the law has been slower than expected so far. A late December surge, of more than 975,000, has helped push enrollment beyond 1.1 million, according to an announcement Sunday by Health and Human Services (or, HHS). What remains unclear is who has signed up for insurance. Forbes did an analysis of available state-level data, and found the majority of enrollees were not the young, healthy individuals needed to keep the law solvent. Instead, the majority for the six states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Washington) were between 45 and 64 years old, and were choosing costlier, “silver” plans.

The next test comes in March, when on the 31, open enrollment for 2014 ends. Individuals who are uninsured, and have not selected a plan by this date will face a fine of $95, or 1 percent of household income. This grows each subsequent year the individual does not purchase insurance. The administration had originally set a goal of 7 million.

In the fall, Obamacare will heat up again. In October, plans that were extended one extra year, as part of damage-control from “if you like your plan you can keep it” can no longer be renewed. Anyone whose plan was extended will need to find new coverage that can begin by January 1, 2015.

Then, in November, the midterm elections, and the outcome — rightly or wrongly — will become a bellwether for healthcare reform in America. If Democrats win overwhelmingly, it may be taken as a sign that the American people approve of the Affordable Care Act. On the other hand, a Republican majority could be seen as a referendum on the law.

Two weeks after the midterms, on November 15, the next round of open enrollment begins for coverage starting in 2015. This is an extension of one month beyond the original starting date, and has been criticized by opponents of the law for conveniently beginning after the midterms have taken place.

As 2015 rapidly approaches in the final months of 2014, another flurry about costs and changes is likely. The employer-mandate begins January 1, 2015, and how doctors are paid will be modified. Under the latter, payments will change “so that those who provide higher value care will receive higher payments than those who provide lower quality care,” HHS explains.

More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet: