The Supreme Court is expected to rule this Thursday on President Obama's health-care reform law. As one of the Court’s more complex cases in recent history, the outcome is likely to be confusing for both employers and consumers. The most likely scenarios are:
a) the Court upholds the entire law.
b) the court upholds most of the law, but strikes down the individual mandate.
c) The court strikes down the mandate and some other reforms, but upholds the rest of the law.
No matter the outcome, you’re sure to have questions about what the decision means for you. To help you make sense of it all, two of our health editors, Kim Lankford of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and Martha Craver of The Kiplinger Letter will be taking your questions on Thursday, June 28 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. ET.
We will update this live blog as the health-care ruling comes in, and will answer your questions live starting at 1:30. We hope you’ll join us!
UPDATE: The Supreme Court upheld the core of the Obama administration's health-care law, saying that the individual mandate is permissible as a tax.
What does all this mean for you? Kiplinger health editors will address your concerns about possible changes to the cost of family and individual coverage, as well as explain how small companies can manage the costs of insuring their workforces today at 1:30 ET.
Feel free to submit questions early.
Welcome to today's live chat on health care reform.
Now that the Supreme Court has upheld President Obama's sweeping health care reform law, what does this mean for you?
Kiplinger health editors Martha Craver and Kim Lankford will be taking your questions for the next hour.
Good afternoon. Happy to be here.
Thanks for participating, everyone. Looking forward to your questions.
To get started, let's take a look at what readers can expect to happen next.
Martha, we’re already hearing that Congressional Republicans are going to try to repeal and replace the law. What’s the likelihood of this happening?
And Kim, what are some key provisions that will take effect over the next two years?
That's right. The House GOP intends to vote to try and repeal the law in the next couple of weeks. It will pass the House but not the Senate. And, as long as President Obama is in the White House the law will not be overturned.
What about if Romney is elected?
However, if Gov. Romney is elected in November, all bets are off. Even if Senate Democrats are able to bottle up any "repeal and replace" legislation, Romney as chief executive could scuttle the law. The Accountable Care Act gives a lot of authority to the regulatory agencies and Romney could simply have the agencies delay rules or refuse to enforce those already on the books.
So, there are still a lot of unknowns out there about what could happen.
While we let Kim finish up her answer, let's get started with our first question from Ken.
Yes, the Court's decision ends some of the uncertainity, but it still faces a contentious political outlook.
Right now, young adults will continue to be able to stay on their parents' policies until age 26 (but it's a good idea to shop around to see if this really is the best deal, especially if you move far away from your parents and are healthy -- I wrote a column about that a few weeks ago). Next year, the maximum limit to put in medical FSAs will shrink down to $2,500, so it's a good idea to have any major medical procedures with big out-of-pocket expenses this year if you were able to set aside more than that in your FSA this year. Also, the doughnut hole for Medicare Part D prescription-drug coverage will continue to shrink in 2013, and you'll be able to switch Medicare Advantage plans anytime during the year -- rather than just during open-enrollment season -- if you live in an area that has a plan with a five-star quality rating (I did a column about that a few weeks ago, too). Then the big changes take place in 2014, when insurers must cover everyone regardless of their health and you must pay a penalty (or a tax) if you don't buy coverage, and the state health insurance exchanges should be up and running by then, although some had been waiting for the Supreme Court's decision to get started, and it will be interesting to see how quickly they can move to get implemented.
Martha and Kim, any insight into Ken's question about Medicaid?
Ken, I haven't read the entire decision yet but I don't think that's what the Court said. My understanding of the Medicaid issue is that the Court ruled that Congress acted constitutionally in offering states funds to expand coverage to millions of new individuals. States can agree to expand coverage in exchange for those new funds. If the state accepts the expansion funds, it must obey the new rules and expand coverage. A state can refuse to participate in the expansion without losing all of its Medicaid funds. Instead, the state will have the option of continuing its current unexpanded plan as is.
Here's our next question from MaryG
Mary, if you mean the temporary insurance for those with preexisting conditions, I believe those will continue until 2014 when the state insurance exchanges begin operating.
That makes sense, thanks Martha.
Here's a question from Sarah.
No, states can't opt out. It is the law of the land.
And another question from Sarah.
About 31 million people who don't have insurance now are expected to get insurance under the ACA. That's means more business for pharmacies and physician practices, hospitals, medical labs, drug and device manufacturers, etc.
Thanks, Martha. Here's our next question from Allie.
As for driving up prices, there are several provisions in the law that are designed to bring down health costs. It remains to be seen whether they will be successful or not.
Allie, I'm not sure it's a generational issue. True you will be required to buy health insurance, or pay a penalty tax, but the law will cover many who are not unable to get insurance or can't afford it. the costs of covering those people are now passed on to those of us who do have insurance through what is known as "cost shifting". One estimate is that cost shifting, as providers shift the cost of uncompensated care to those of us who are insured is about $1,000 a person.
Martha, is that $1,000/person over a year? Our lifetime?
Thanks. Kim, anything you want to add?
On a much closer timeframe, it will be interesting to see how the decision impacts the costs and coverage for employer plans for 2013 -- many employers are just making their decisions about their health insurance plans for next year right now. Even though the next major changes don't take effect until 2014, some may have been waiting for the Supreme Court's decision before choosing a policy and setting premiums and coverage levels for next year's plan, as they anticipate the major changes to come. This year's open enrollment season in the fall should be very interesting.