Only On 6: Affordable Care Act Questions Answered

Only On 6: Affordable Care Act Questions Answered

The Affordable Care Act has been a hot topic for many months, even causing a government shutdown on October 1st that lasted 16 days. With as many as 44 million Americans uninsured in the United States, it's aimed at reforming the American Healthcare System. But information has been going out on social media that is causing a lot of confusion on what the act will and won't cover.

The ACA health insurance is set to kick in on January 1, 2014. So medical experts answered some of the most common and confusing questions Texomans had about the Affordable Care Act.

Question #1: Will the Affordable Care Act take the insurance I have away? This is a maybe.

"If you have a grandfathered plan which is a plan in effect prior to October 23, 2010 and you haven't made any significant changes to that plan, you can still keep that," said Tom Wilson, Media Chair for the Texas Association of Health Underwriters.

However, it is highly recommended to double check with the insurance company, to make sure there are no changes. If you are under an employer's insurance, employers can switch your health care plans regardless of the Affordable Care Act.

Question #2: Will the Affordable Care Act prevent you from seeing your doctor? This is a maybe.

Keeping your doctor can depend on the level of your insurance plan.

"If you choose a plan with a narrower network or panel of providers, it could potentially not allow you to see a physician that you're used to seeing," said Wilson.

Buying a lower plan such as "bronze" in the exchange may cut out your favorite doctor. Higher plans will offer a larger variety of doctors to choose from.

Question #3: Will hospitals raise their costs on procedures because of the Affordable Care Act? This is false.

President and CEO of United Regional Healthcare System Phyllis Cowling states, there is no need to worry.

"We won't change our pricing as a result. In fact, we have not increased our charges in something like 6 years now. The plans themselves will have no impact on our pricing and how we charge for our care," she said.

United Regional hospital has in fact lowered their outpatient charges instead, in mid-2013.

Question #4: Is the Affordable Care Act going to ruin small businesses? This is false.

Small businesses with 25 or less employees will be given a small tax credit in the exchange.  The tax credit will be given to small businesses that pay an average wage of less than $50,000 per year and pay at least half of employee's health insurance premiums.

Question #5: Does the Affordable Care Act mean higher taxes? This is true.

"There is a premium tax on health insurance companies that start January 1, 2014. A couple of larger companies have said that they are going to blend it into the rates," said Wilson.

Other companies will create a separate break out column on invoices to show the premium tax.

Question #6: Will the government take you to jail if you don't buy insurance? This is false.

Those that don't buy insurance will have to pay a penalty of $95 or 1% of their annual household income. But the law prohibits the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from seeking to put anybody in jail or seizing their property for simple refusal to pay the fine.

Many of the Affordable Care Act questions depend on each person and situation. Experts recommend any questions about your health insurance should be sent to a licensed professional, and understand the changes and polices when buying health insurance from the exchange.

"Take some time to understand what's available before making that selection," said Cowling.

In Texas, 1 in 4 people or 25% of the population are uninsured. If you want your coverage to begin January 1, 2014, the deadline to sign up is December 15th.

Cynthia Kobayashi, Newschannel Six.