The CFP Board of Standards has taken on the job of educating consumers about their changing health-care options in a series of articles called “Let’s Talk Obamacare” on its Web site.
Come October 1, as state health care exchanges open, Americans without insurance will have to make the decision as to whether to purchase health care coverage or pay a penalty. In the educational series, Eleanor Blayney, the CFP’s consumer advocate, advises consumers to consider several factors before deciding to pay a federal penalty and forego health insurance:
• Rising penalties for having no insurance: In 2014, uninsured Americans will be required to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty equal to the greater of $95 per adult and $47.50 per child, or one percent of family income. In 2015, the penalty rises to the greater of $325 per adult or two percent of income. In 2016 and beyond, the penalties rise even further.
• The risk of incurring huge medical costs due to an accident: Being young and healthy does not vaccinate you from the kind of risk that can leave you and your family destitute.
• Limited access to quality medical care when you do need it: Getting treatment from physicians for chronic conditions is going to be a lot more difficult. Some providers, upon learning you are uninsured, may simply decline you as a patient.
• The increased likelihood that you will neglect the routine, preventative procedures that can keep you healthy: If you are unwilling to pay for insurance, you'll probably be averse to the high cost of an annual check-up or routine procedures.
"The likely reality is that it's going to cost more for the uninsured to get health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, relative to what it costs now," says Blayney. "But the financial math needs to factor in not just the hard, out-of-pocket costs today, but the potential costs of being without insurance.”
The impact of the Affordable Care Act on consumers is evaluated in three separate installments on the CFP Board’s Web site (www.CFP.net). Each one covers a distinct consumer group defined by its employment status and current health care coverage. The groups are defined as: 1) those who work for large companies offering a health care plan; 2) those who work for small companies (i.e., fewer than 50 employees) or who are self-employed and buy individual insurance; and 3) those who are uninsured.