With key provisions of the Affordable Care Act set to go into effect Jan. 1, the best thing consumers can do is learn about their health care options, Winthrop University students who studied the law say.
Education is essential because the act is about choices, they said – whom you select for insurance, how much that will cost and whom you will pay for medical services.
“It’s all about the options you have,” said Keith Benson, a Winthrop health care management professor.
Students in Benson’s senior seminar studied the act for about three weeks and presented their recommendations Wednesday to about 100 people, many of them fellow students.
While they stressed the need to be informed, they acknowledged that finding the information can be difficult.
Some students said they used key-word searches to find what they needed in the more than 2,000 page Affordable Care Act. Others looked at timelines or relied on reporting from reputable sources to understand how the law will affect what Benson called the “4 Ps” – patients, providers, payers and policy makers.
While getting the information can be difficult, it’s not impossible. Shavonne Taylor, a senior health care student, said she already has registered with the federal health care marketplace.
Taylor said she didn’t go on online, where so many have had trouble accessing the site. She called 800-318-2596 and got help registering. People must register before they begin shopping for insurance.
“I’ve learned to look into things,” said Taylor, who worked as a private contractor in Afghanistan before coming to Winthrop. “I’ve learned to dig as deep as you can for information.”
Taylor said she will probably consider buying a “bronze” plan, the lowest of the four levels. That type of plan will typically have a low premium but a higher deductible, meaning more out-of-pocket costs. Taylor said she is willing to accept that trade-off because she is healthy and goes to the doctor for preventive care.
One feature of the Affordable Care Act is that most preventive visits will now be at no cost to the patient.
Other facets of the act that the students stressed included:
• Beware of scams. You don’t have to pay to get information about marketplace insurance plans. There are approved providers who will help you for free. For a list of providers, go to healthcare.gov.
• While the exchanges are public, the insurance is provided by private companies. There are also private insurance exchanges, and it is possible to find lower insurance rates there.
• Medicare patients likely will have fewer out-of-pocket expenses and save money on prescriptions.
• With an estimated 30 million people becoming insured, expect longer waits at the doctor. For some, costs will go up.
Don Worthington • 803-329-4066