Claremore Daily Progress

State/Nation

January 2, 2014

Relief, confusion as new health benefits begin

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —

After a troubled rollout, President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul now faces its most personal test: How will it work as people seek care under its new mandates?
Most major pieces of the Affordable Care Act take full effect with the new year. That means people who had been denied coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition can book appointments and get prescriptions.
Caps on yearly out-of-pocket medical expenses will mean people shouldn’t have to worry about bankruptcy after treatment for a catastrophic illness or injury. 
And all new insurance policies must offer a minimum level of essential benefits, ranging from emergency room treatment to maternity care.
The benefits apply to individual policies as well as those offered through employers.
The burden for implementing the law now shifts to insurance companies and health care providers.
Dr. John Venetos, a Chicago gastroenterologist, said there is “tremendous uncertainty and anxiety” among patients who have been calling his office, some of whom believe they have signed up for coverage but have not yet received insurance cards.
“They’re not sure if they have coverage. It puts the heavy work on the physician,” Venetos said. “At some point, every practice is going to make a decision about how long can they continue to see these patients for free if they are not getting paid.”
Administration officials said this week that 2.1 million consumers have enrolled through the federal and state-run health insurance exchanges that are a central feature of the Affordable Care Act.
Yet how many of those who signed up for coverage on the exchanges will follow through and pay their premiums will not be known for a couple of weeks. 
People who signed up on the federal website have until Jan. 10 to pay premiums for coverage retroactive to Jan. 1, while consumers in some states have until Jan. 6.

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