Uninsured concerned with Affordable Care Act delays

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Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - Mason Watkins

PADUCAH, Ky. - A health insurance expert says recent changes to the Affordable Care Act are unfair to the working uninsured.

Some business owners who were supposed to provide health insurance for their employees now get extra time to do so, but their employees aren't being cut the same slack.  We're talking about two mandates: the employer mandate and the individual mandate. Both were set to go into effect on January 1, 2014.

The employer mandate requires business owners with more than 50 full-time employees to provide health insurance.  That's been delayed for a year because the reporting process still needs to be worked out.  That's according to the US Treasury Department.

The individual mandate requires individuals to purchase health insurance or face a fine.  That mandate still goes into effect in 2014.

Some uninsured people who will be forced to pay for health insurance say delaying one but not the other isn't fair.

"I'm 58.  I've been sewing for about 48 years," seamstress Jean Hughes said.

Hughes can pay her bills, but can't afford health insurance. That's why she comes to the free clinic and goes to the emergency room when she has a serious need.

That's part of what the Affordable Care Act is aimed at stopping, but the employer mandate is now delayed one year.

"They just can't make it happen," health insurance consultant Jody Stivers said.

Stivers said that doesn't surprise him.

"What they put into law and said was going to happen January 1 of 2014 is just not a manageable piece of legislation to actually make happen," Stivers said.

Stivers thinks the individual mandate will also be pushed back, exactly what House Speaker John Boehner is calling for.

"I think what the president did was outrageous; the idea that we're going to give big business a break under Obamacare but we're going to punish small businesses and families is wrong," Boehner said.

Hughes doesn't care about the politics surrounding the measure, but says postponing one part and not the other is unfair.

"If you gonna give the boss that extra time to get his stuff together, give us extra time," Hughes said.

There is a penalty for people who work but don't get health insurance.

Stivers said under the law, a working, uninsured person would have to pay $95 a year or one-percent of their income per year, whichever is greater.

In 2015 business owners will face a $2,000 penalty for each uninsured employee.

There are subsidies available through the state's insurance exchange program. The subsidy amount depends on how close you are to the poverty line, but you don't have to be below poverty level to get help.
 
If you'd like to learn more about the Affordable Care Act, click here.

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