Affordable Care Act Insurance Exchanges Open

By Chris Hoenig

Millions of un- and underinsured Americans—the majority of whom are Black and Latino—can begin shopping for health insurance in the new marketplaces created under the President’s signature law. Officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the law is funded separately from the day-to-day government budget and is not affected by the federal government shutdown that went into effect this week.

Though coverage doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1, open enrollment is now available in all 50 states. A state-by-state breakdown of health-reform offerings can be found on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website.

Some benefits have been available for all Americans since 2010, including the extended coverage for young adults, who are currently covered by their parents’ insurance plan through age 26. The Affordable Care Act has already helped 85 percent of Americans who have insurance by extending coverage for more than 3 million young adults, lowering prescription costs for more than 6 million seniors, ending lifetime-coverage limits for 105 million Americans and making affordable coverage available for 17 million children with preexisting conditions. Overall, more than 13 million Americans have received rebates from insurance companies, who must now spend 80 cents out of every dollar that you pay in premiums on actual medical care.

Benefits for All

Among the benefits all Americans will receive is coverage of preventative services. These include one-time screenings for abdominal aortic aneurysms in all men who have smoked, as well as screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, colorectal cancer, depression, type 2 diabetes and HIV. Adults who have concerns about alcohol misuse, STDs, obesity and their diet will also now have counseling covered by their insurance.

Certain immunizations will also be covered for adults, including hepatitis A and B, herpes zoster, human papillomavirus, flu shots, measles, mumps, rubella, meningococcal and pneumococcal bacteria, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough) and varicella.

Kids will also receive coverage for drug- and alcohol-use assessments, behavioral assessments and autism screenings, as well as screenings for cervical dysplasia, congenital hypothyroidism, development screening, dyslipidemia, vision and hearing, hematocrit and hemoglobin, sickle cell, lead and tuberculosis testing. Iron supplements for infants and fluoride chemoprevention supplements are also covered.

Children have many of the same immunizations covered as adults, as well as immunizations for rotavirus, polio and haemophilus influenza type B.

Benefits for Women

More than 18 million uninsured women will have the opportunity to enroll for coverage through the new insurance marketplaces. Women can also no longer be discriminated against just because they’re women, as insurance companies cannot charge higher rates due to gender or health status.

Preventative services such as mammography and contraception coverage, breast-cancer counseling for at-risk women and screenings for cervical cancer, STDs, HPV and osteoporosis are already covered under the law. Pregnant women also receive support for breastfeeding, as well as anemia and gestational-diabetes screening.

Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling for all women is also covered.

Benefits for Black Americans

Nearly 7 million uninsured Black Americans will have the opportunity to purchase affordable health coverage in the new marketplaces, including 3 million Black women. In addition, roughly 7.3 million Blacks who already have private insurance are now able to take advantage of the additional preventative services at no additional cost.

Low- and no-cost coverage is available for low-income Americans, as well as advance tax credits that will lower the cost of monthly premiums. Individuals and families that make up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($94,200 for a family of four) are eligible for some form of tax credits to purchase coverage in the marketplace, while families at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level ($31,322 for a family of four) have opportunities under expanded Medicaid coverage.

Benefits for Latinos

More than 10 million uninsured Latinos, including nearly 5 million Latinas, are able to purchase coverage through the new insurance marketplace. Another nearly 300,000 Latinas who currently buy individual coverage will gain maternity coverage under the regulations put in place by the Affordable Care Act.

Nearly 1 million uninsured young Latinos between the ages of 19 and 25 have already been extended coverage on their parents’ insurance plans as part of the new healthcare law.

A step-by-step guide to answer questions is also available on the HHS website.

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