ObamaCare: What you need to know...

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On January 1, 2014, all Americans will be required to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. With the deadline less than a month away, it's natural that ObamaCare (officially known as the Affordable Care Act) has been much in the news. On top of the many questions that are to be expected with rolling out such a program, the nation has lived through a government shutdown and the train wreck known as HealthCare.gov.

Despite all the hullabaloo, and at the end of the day, Americans are still left with the task of figuring out what to do. As I began my journey to figure out what to do about ObamaCare, I first wanted to see what the ObamaCare plans entailed. How much did they cost? What did they cover? How did they work?

Answering those questions is not necessarily straight-forward...

particularly when you're dealing with a broken government website. Two websites purport to provide basic information about the plans available to you under ObamaCare: HealthSherpa.com and ValuePengiun.com. They seem to be stable, and they're a pleasure to use. Unfortunately, however, I simply don't trust either site to give me completely accurate information. You can look around for yourself, but I have read anecdotal evidence that the information about particular healthcare plans listed on either site are simply not accurate.

So, if you want to know how much health insurance will cost you under ObamaCare, my first suggestion is to speak with a health insurance broker in your area. Here in Bloomington, a number of us have spoken to a very friendly and helpful broker at the May Agency. If you're in the area, let me know, and I'll put you in touch (ldweeks@gmail.com).

Your other option, of course, is to simply brave the HealthCare.gov website. I was able to successfully fill out an application and begin to browse through the plans. HealthCare.gov works by having you submit your health insurance application first, and then showing you your available plans. And you had better take good notes as you fill out the application. I discovered that after you submit your application, you are no longer able to go back and review, let alone change, your previously submitted application. To view or change a previously submitted application, you must call 1-800-318-2596.

So, then, what do we see when the curtain on the ObamaCare plans is lifted?

It depends. It's very important to remember that the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) did not actually create any health insurance plans. Instead, it simply regulates plans that health insurance companies are willing to offer. That means that the plans you see when you browse your options are not "government plans" per se, but are the plans that insurance providers are making available that follow all the Affordable Care Act guidelines. Consequently, the plans will vary depending on the insurance companies in your area and what they've decided to offer.

In Bloomington, Indiana, you have two health insurance companies to pick from: Anthem and MDWise. You'll need to do your own research for options outside of Bloomington, but be careful! The company you pick will determine where you get your healthcare. For instance, many women in our church choose to deliver their babies at Bloomington Hospital. However, Bloomington Hospital is not "in-network" if you choose an Anthem plan. Although Anthem used to have an expansive network, under the affordable care act this is no longer the case. Anyone in our church who enrolls on an Anthem plan, and then needs to deliver a baby, will be told that they will have to pay out of pocket if they elect to deliver the baby at Bloomington Hospital.

To make matters worse, in this particular case, the other closest hospital in the Anthem network is Monroe Hospital, which does not have a maternity wing. The next closest hospital in the Anthem network is Greene County General Hospital, a distance of about 30 miles. Greene County General is a small hospital, with only two OBGYN doctors with admitting privileges. The next closest hospital in-network is 40 miles away.

A friend of mine who lives outside of Bloomington, just over the county line, with his wife and family is expecting another baby in the summer. They do not have access to the MDWise plans, and must choose an Anthem plan. All other insurance providers have been driven out of the market by Obamacare. They have no choice at all.

Rather than travel 20 minutes (a distance of about 12 miles) to Bloomington Hospital to deliver the baby, they are facing the very real possibility of having to travel over an hour one way (50 miles) to a hospital near Indianapolis, for every single maternity visit, not to mention to deliver their baby.

Not to state the obvious, but when the government forces a couple to drive over an hour to deliver their baby, when there is a good hospital nearby, with doctors that they prefer, it isn't an improvement in health care. It is hurting both mother and child.

This is the Affordable Care Act in all its splendor.

Lucas Weeks

Lucas serves as an assistant pastor at Clearnote Church in Bloomington, Indiana. Although he pines for the warm, tropical weather that was familiar to him growing up in west and central Africa, he has since made peace with the harsher climes of North America.

Want to get in touch? Send Lucas an email!