New act will provide insurance for those who have struggled to find coverage
There is hope today for South Carolinians who have struggled to find quality, affordable health insurance for themselves or their families. Those working citizens who have been uninsured or underinsured can now sign up - October 1, 2013, through March 31, 2014, - for a health insurance policy on the federal marketplace, sometimes called the exchange, that will become effective on January 1, 2014.
The Affordable Care Act requires that nearly all Americans purchase health insurance, but low-income residents will qualify for tax credit subsidies to assist with the cost. Those subsidies are paid directly to the insurer and are available to individuals and families with incomes between 100 and 400 percent of the poverty level, which means up to $45,960 for an individual and up to $94,200 for a family of four in 2013.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), individuals in South Carolina will have an average of 26 qualified health plan choices. There will be four levels of plans in the marketplace: "platinum,""gold," "silver," or "bronze." Young adults will also have the option of purchasing a "catastrophic" plan, increasing their number of affordable choices.
HHS reports that a 27-year-old living in South Carolina who makes $25,000 per year will pay $97 per month for the lowest-cost bronze plan and $145 per month for the second lowest silver plan, when tax credits are taken into account. For a middle income family of four in South Carolina with an income of $50,000 per year, the lowest-cost bronze plan would cost only $109 per month.
South Carolinians who need to sign up for health insurance have many resources to assist with the process. Information is available at www.HealthCare.gov or by calling toll-free 1-800-318-2596. Also, there are 20 community health centers around the state and all of them are ready to assist. A complete list of those centers and their contact information is on my website at http://clyburn.house.gov/.
The opening of this new health insurance marketplace is the next phase of implementing the landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA), but the ACA has already improved our health care delivery system since it was signed into law on March 23, 2010.
Provisions in the law that are already in effect include: (1) allowing young adults to remain on their parents insurance policies until they are 26-years old; (2) providing seniors on Medicare free preventive services: (3) closing the donut hole on the cost of prescription drugs; (4) preventing children from being denied health insurance due to a pre-existing condition (and beginning January 1st this will be extended to adults as well); (5) ending lifetime limits on health insurance benefits; and (6) requiring insurance companies to spend eighty percent of premiums on medical care or give a rebate to customers if they do not.
When this law was enacted, I dubbed it the Civil Rights Act of the 21st Century because I believe that health care is a fundamental right, not a luxury to be enjoyed only by those who can afford it. I agree with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assertion that "of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane." Now, after more than a 100 years of trying, we finally are taking a significant step toward ending that inequality and providing affordable, quality health care for all Americans.
James E. Clyburn,
D - South Carolina
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