Q. I'm thinking about retiring in 2014 but I won't be old enough for Medicare yet. Will I be able to buy health insurance through an exchange here in Louisiana? Our governor has done nothing to get our state ready. Also, will I have to buy COBRA for 18 months before enrolling through the exchange?
Q. Who gets a rebate from insurance companies and what companies give it? I haven't been able to find out.
Q. My wife and I are both 60 and looking to retire. We will be giving up our employee group plans and will need to buy insurance on our own. One of us has high blood pressure and the other had a stent put in three years ago. Which companies should we look at?
Q. I can't afford afford health insurance now, so how am I expected to afford it in two years when, because of health-care reform, we will have to buy it? Is it government-subsidized or what?
Today's Supreme Court ruling upholds the best-known parts of the Affordable Care Act, such as the mandate and the support for people with pre-existing medical conditions. But the decision does undermine a provision that was projected to insure some 16 million of the nation's neediest adults through an expansion of Medicaid. As a result, some of them may still be stuck with no access to affordable coverage when the law goes fully into effect in 2014.
Consumer Reports president Jim Guest is traveling abroad but we tracked him down for his reaction to this morning's Supreme Court ruling upholding health reform. Here's what he had to say.
The bottom line is that all the consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act survive intact. These include the ban on pre-existing condition exclusions, the subsidies to help people afford coverage, the end to annual and lifetime limits on health benefits, the consumer-friendly exchanges where people can buy insurance, and the ability of young adults to stay on their parents' policies.
We don't have the text of the decision yet, but the experts at SCOTUSblog have seen it and report that the court has upheld the health reform law, including the controversial mandate. However, it did place some limits (we don't know the details yet) on the law's expansion of Medicaid to cover all Americans with household incomes of less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
In the two years I've written this feature, hundreds of consumers have asked variations to that question. The answer has almost always been something like this: You're in tough shape now, but as of Jan. 1, 2014, when the Affordable Care Act fully kicks in, that will change. That's still the answer today. But tomorrow, after the Supreme Court rules on the law, who knows?
Update: New government rebate figures just out. See details in the fifth paragraph below.
Q. I thought I had completed my family, and was confident of never getting pregnant again because I had an IUD. So we bought an individual family plan from Blue Shield of California that excludes pregnancy. But I got pregnant anyway. I asked to be moved to a plan that covers pregnancy, and was denied because of my "pre-existing condition." Is this legit?
The Affordable Care Act was signed into law March 23, 2010. After a flurry of new consumer protections later that year, such as allowing young adults to stay on their parents' plans until age 26, it may seem that not much has been happening lately. But behind the scenes, the law has begun targeting excessive health insurance premiums. Consumers will be seeing more and more of the consequences of this over the coming year. To wit:
As we were just saying yesterday, buying health insurance can be a frightening and baffling experience, especially for consumers who have to shop on their own instead of getting coverage through an employer group plan.
Our testers put 100s of products through their paces at our National Testing and Research Center. Learn more about how we test for: