The Affordable Care Act has been at the center of the government shutdown debate, but on Tuesday, it was officially unveiled.
"I, like millions of Americans did across the country, tried several times to get into the marketplace to try to look at rates and look at plans - which we have actually not seen any of those here in Texas from any of our carriers," said Ernest Berry. He is the President of the Lubbock Area Association of Health Underwriters and experienced some early difficulties logging on.
"The little wheel sits there and spins and spins," he said. "Then finally the computer times out and you have to start over if you want to try to get in there."
Tuesday was the beginning of the open enrollment period. Coverage doesn't begin until January 1 and the enrollment period closes March 31. Ernest says he has been taking phone calls from clients asking for advice. They wonder whether to keep their old plan or transition to a new on and he feels it may only be the tip of the iceberg.
"Our group estimates there's probably around 30,000 people right here in Lubbock, Texas that might qualify for a complete 100 percent subsidy," he said.
One of the promises of the Affordable Care Act was that competition in the marketplace would keep costs down, but Ernest doesn't believe that will be the case.
"All of the projections that I've seen say it's going to cause premiums to increase," he said. "Most of these companies will give a one year rate guarantee but at the end of that year then they have to look and say did we collect enough money to pay all the claims or are we going to have to raise those rates, and if so, by how much? I wouldn't be surprised to see some really drastic rate increases."
He says some of the big reasons for the cost increase is no waiting for people with pre-existing conditions. Beginning January 1, 2014, anybody with a pre-existing medical problem can begin getting the treatment they need. Ernest believes this is a good thing, but it may make premiums more expensive for younger generations.
"Right now we're projecting an average family of four with a likely policy of 60 percent, the Silver Plan, running around $12,000 dollars a year, $1,000 a month," he said. "They're banking on those kids signing up and putting their money in there to help keep premiums down for everybody and I just don't know what's going to happen."
Ernest says the Affordable Care Act has and will continue to change the insurance industry, but it's nothing they can't handle.
"We've been in situations before where we thought it was the end of the world and it never is," he said. "Life goes on and the industry adjusts and the agents adjust and the public adjusts and I feel firmly that's what will happen again in this situation."
RELATED LINK: Understanding the Affordable Care Act
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