Tens of thousands of Nebraskans who are struggling to find affordable health coverage stand to benefit from health insurance exchanges created by the new federal health care law. People without coverage will be able to buy insurance through regulated exchanges starting in 2014.
“If you are self-employed or buy your insurance on the individual market, the insurance exchange concerns you,” said Connie Benjamin, AARP Nebraska State Director. “AARP is working to ensure that Nebraska sets up an insurance exchange that serves the best interests of consumers. We believe that the Department of Insurance, with insight and feedback from consumers and consumer advocates, is well-positioned to develop an effective exchange.”
By 2014, insurance companies will be required to insure people even if they are or have been sick or disabled and they cannot drop people when they get sick. Those with incomes below 400 percent of poverty ($89,400 for a family of four) will qualify for tax credits that will keep premium costs below 10 percent of the family’s income. There also will be protections in place to curb excessive premium rates because of age, gender or health condition.
For Jeanie Zink-Wythers of Fairmont, the exchange offers a promise of relief from hefty insurance premiums and guaranteed access to health coverage.
“I’m hoping the exchange will provide a way for all of us in the individual market to compare benefits and prices that will be affordable and just right for our family,” she said. “As a family, we are really struggling to find affordable insurance.”
Zink-Wythers and her husband are both self-employed. Insurance premiums for their family of four run about $1,200 a month with an annual deductible of $8,000. “We are all basically healthy but because of pre-existing conditions, our premiums are sky high,” she said. “There is currently no way to compare prices and coverage.”
Among other things, AARP recommends that a consumer-centered exchange:
- Offer a manageable number of quality health insurance plans
- Provide a central point where consumers can find the information they need about their coverage options, allowing them to easily compare plans and select a plan that best meets their needs
- Use existing quality standards that encourage safe, patient-centered, high-quality care, and efficient use of resources
- Provide a seamless system so changes in employment or income don’t result in disruption of coverage or services
- Connect the uninsured to coverage and financial assistance for which they are eligible.
For a complete set of AARP’s recommendations or more information about Nebraska’s plans for an insurance exchange, contact Mark Intermill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-866-389-5651 toll-free.