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Health care reform in Indiana is underway. The “Affordable Care Act,” also known as “Obamacare” is helping many Hoosier consumers with their medical insurance benefits. But the legislation remains very controversial. Although it helps many residents find affordable (and sometimes free) healthcare, for others, it means losing existing coverage that is replaced by plans that cost thousands of dollars more.

Highlights of ACA

One of the key components of the legislation (and one of our favorites) is the removal of waiting periods and deductibles from approved preventive services. Along with annual physicals, well-child visits, and mammograms, other covered benefits include adult blood pressure and cholesterol screening, depression and Type 2 diabetes screening, immunizations, and many other items. No matter what happens, this part of the legislation will undoubtedly remain.

Other changes already implemented include the elimination of lifetime caps on paid covered benefits, termination of “state high risk pools” and eliminating the practice of rescinding policies. Children can now stay on their parent's policy until age 26 (subject to certain restrictions) and a policy can not be terminated because you submitted too many claims. All of these transitions are very consumer-friendly and have only nominal impact on premiums (assuming a significant amount of healthy young persons enroll).

Indiana healthcare reform has provided large subsidies to many Hoosiers. Get your Obamacare subsidy and save money.

The "risk pools" were a helpful alternative for applicants that had been declined for coverage multiple times. In previous years, regardless of health, if you had not had active benefits for at least six months, there was a good chance you were going to be accepted. And rates were fairly competitive, and the program was ideal for providing quick benefits for major medical expenses such as cancer or heart disease.

But the program was no longer needed with the passage of Obamacare. Now, whether you are considered a "preferred" risk or a "high" risk, the rate is identical. Although your nicotine intake will impact the price you pay, no other medical information is ever asked. You also will never be asked to reveal your height and weight for any Marketplace-based coverage. NOTE: Your household income will determine your eligibility for a federal subsidy, and the amount.

The Indiana Marketplace

The Exchange (also known as a "Marketplace"), issues policies for persons that are eligible for financial subsidies. Our website shows your prices that have been reduced by the subsidy, and helps you enroll for coverage during Open Enrollment. You may also select an "off-Exchange" plan, which is not impacted by a federal subsidy. Pre-existing conditions are still covered, and most major carriers offer this option.

If you miss the Open Enrollment period, we will show you other affordable options, although some contracts may be underwritten. An "SEP" (Special Enrollment Period) exception is later discussed. These situations may allow you to qualify for any available qualified medical plan, subject to specific requirements.

Some of the non-SEP options will include policies that only provide up to 12 months of coverage, or feature limitations on durations of stay in hospitals, along with caps on daily inpatient and outpatient expenses. Although benefits are limited, they are a viable option to consider after Open Enrollment has ended.

Special Enrollment In Indiana After Deadline Expires

After January 31st, applicants can continue to receive Marketplace plans and subsidies by qualifying for a "special event." For example, if you deliver a child or your dependent reaches age 26, a new policy can be written as if it was during the regular enrollment period. Losing your current job or being notified that a plan will not be renewed are two additional covered situations.

"Limited Benefit" options offer fixed-coverage amounts on major medical procedures, along with basic office visit and prescription benefits. Although available at any time of the year, they are most suitable for individuals or families that have no serious medical issues and prefer to pay a low rate without maternity or mental-illness coverage.

The tax for not complying (owning a health insurance plans that meets ACA mandates) is a maximum of 1% of family income for 2014 and 2% for 2015. In 2016, it continues to increase to 2 1/2%. Thus, if your income is $80,000 per year, by 2016, you'll have to pay a $2,000 tax unless you are properly covered.

This special tax is pro-rated, so if you are able to obtain coverage at some point throughout the year, you will only be penalized for the months you were not covered. Often, purchasing a non-compliant plan and paying the penalty, will be cheaper than buying an unsubsidized plan.

Obamacare And Brokers

So far, Obamacare has reduced rates for some Hoosiers and hurt others. Consumers that meet the requirements of the government subsidy, typically are helped. The Indiana Health Exchange, is utilized through our website so our customers always receive the lowest offered prices and the maximum allowable subsidy.

But without the assistance of experienced licensed professionals, consumers often have to fend for and navigate themselves on an impersonal website. Site delays, glitches and lost information are often experienced on the government website. We understand that frustration, which is one of the reasons we choose the quickest and most user-friendly methods to help you buy a policy.

That's also why we always remind our customers to allow us to handle the enrollment process for you. You'll receive accurate advice regarding determining your maximum allowable subsidy, comparing the best available options, and properly enrolling in a plan that is best suited to pay the expenses you are most likely to incur over the next 12-24 months.There are no fees or charges.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agrees that brokers must play a vital role in helping consumers with the "Exchange." Plan details and tax credits are two topics that  need professional and immediate help. Discussing and comparing how policies pay pre-existing condition expenses are also critical. And the submission of claims is always another area where we can help you.

Your Indiana health insurance broker will find the most affordable plans, and help explain the details of the types of policies that are available to you.

Inexperienced temporary employees (navigators) have provided limited assistance, and lack fundamental training to warrant the millions of dollars spent on their behalf. And the report of convicted felons acting as navigators is especially disturbing, considering they have access to your financial information. For those reasons, we never hire or employ this type of worker.

However, we welcome any legislation that is passed that substantially increases the amount of training that navigators must complete, and requires state licensing with annual compliance and review. We'll see if these changes occur in 2015.

Value Of Experienced Brokers

Although there are a few government websites that offer medical coverage information, the vast majority of consumers prefer to work with experienced licensed brokers that are unbiased and work with Indiana medical plans on a regular basis. And yes…that’s us!

We don't just show you the most competitive prices. We walk you through the application or enrollment process and continue to provide free service for the lifetime of the policy. Whether you have an unpaid claim or a billing inquiry issue, we will always assist you.

Our website continues to provide consumers with current rates from the major insurance companies in the state, which include Anthem Blue Cross, UnitedHealthcare, Humana and Assurant. Until recently, Cigna, Medical Mutual and Aetna offered competitive plan options, but all three carriers have ceased writing individual business in the state. It's always possible that additional companies might follow.

Please feel free to check this page on a regular basis for updates to Indiana health reform issues. The "Affordable Care Act" is constantly changing with new updates, exceptions and rule interpretations. The non-compliance penalty also increases each year.

12-19-2011 UPDATE- We finally have a date! March 26-28 is when the Supreme Court will meet and listen to testimony regarding the legality of Obamacare. So far, 26 states have joined together in an effort to overturn part or all of the legislation. An official determination will probably be made by the Court in June.

04-15-2012 2012 UPDATE- The Supreme Court ruling on the federal mandate requiring consumers to purchase health insurance is being discussed and determined. A decision should be announced within 45 days.

05-06-2012 UPDATE- Still no news, but the decision is getting closer!

10-25-2012 UPDATE- The mandate was upheld so the government can (and will) impose a tax on any person that does not buy qualified health insurance starting in 2014. We don't expect this to change regardless of which candidate wins the election in less than two weeks.

10-7-2013 UPDATE: Health Exchange rates in Indiana are now available on our website. You can request a free quote on any of the pages. Open Enrollment for single or multiple-person policies has begun. You can no longer be denied for coverage when you apply! There are four tiers (Metal plans) of coverage that can be purchased. And of course, the federal administration is offering large subsidies that will reduce your cost.

3-14-2014 UPDATE: As Open Enrollment winds down (16 more days), there's still time to qualify for a federal subsidy. However, if you miss the deadline there are many exceptions that provide a special 60-day window for you. Also, short-term temporary coverage can be purchased for as long as 12 months to cover a gap in benefits. These plans, however, are not as comprehensive as ACA-approved options.

3-30-2014 UPDATE: A special 14-day extension was granted to any person that attempts to purchase a Marketplace plan but can not complete the process. Because it is on the "honor system," no proof is needed. We do not anticipate any additional extensions. But that's what we said last time!

4-23-2014 UPDATE: UnitedHealthcare chose not to participate in the 2014 Indiana Exchange. But what about 2015? UHC officials have indicated they will be participating in more Marketplaces next year. Will the Hoosier state be on their list? We should know within the next few months. If they choose to offer policies to consumers that are eligible for subsidies, additional competitive plan options will suddenly become available.