WASHINGTON, DC – In less than two weeks, the first enrollment period begins for the health law’s new insurance marketplace. Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) held a news conference call to announce that more than 916,000 Ohioans are eligible to receive financial help in order to secure affordable and accessible health coverage. Brown, who declined Congressional health insurance for nearly two decades—keeping a 1992 campaign promise to decline a health plan until similar coverage is available to all Americans—will enter the marketplace during this enrollment period.
“Already millions of Ohioans are benefiting from the health law which ends lifetime caps on insurance coverage and prevents insurance companies from discriminating against individuals with pre-existing conditions by denying them coverage or charging exorbitant prices,” Brown said. “Beginning October 1, almost one million additional Ohioans will become eligible for financial assistance to purchase good affordable insurance in the new marketplace.”
Joining Brown on the call was Ron Pollack, the Executive Director of Families USA, a nonprofit and nonpartisan national organization for health care consumers. Brown and Pollack discussed a new Families USA analysis that outlines the marketplace’s benefits and how Ohioans can obtain and secure those benefits as of 2014.
“Our nation will soon take a giant step towards making high-quality health coverage affordable for all Americans,” Pollack said. “As we count down the days to October 1, it will be important that all Ohioans learn about these breakthrough opportunities. For Ohioans that enroll for this help soon, they will quickly receive the peace of mind and security that comes with knowing that their families can get the health care they need when they need it.”
For the vast majority of Ohioans who already have health insurance, the only changes they will see under the law are new benefits, better protections from insurance company abuses, and more value for every dollar they spend on health care. In fact, for some Americans, premiums will be nearly 14 percent lower in 2014 than previously expected, according to a recent report by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
For the uninsured or those who do not get their coverage through work, the new health insurance marketplace will allow millions of Ohioans to comparison-shop for a variety of quality, affordable plans that best meet their health care needs. Financial help also becomes available for middle and low-income individuals without meaningful employer-sponsored health coverage, including a family of four with an annual income of below $94,200, and single adults with an annual income below $45,960.
The law has already protected millions of Ohioans by ending lifetime caps on insurance coverage, offering free preventive care in new private insurance plans, and providing tax credits to small businesses to help them afford health coverage for their employees. Beginning January 1, insurance companies also can no longer discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions by denying them coverage or charging them exorbitant prices, benefiting the millions of Ohioans with pre-existing conditions.
The law also ensures that the dollars Ohioans pay for health insurance are used for their medical care – rather than for executive bonuses and ad campaigns. The law requires that insurance companies spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they collect from consumers on medical care – or give consumers a rebate. In Ohio, more than 6,300 Ohioans will benefit this year from $487,000 in rebates. Ohio families have faced unchecked hikes in their health insurance costs for years; the law subjects insurance companies to new scrutiny if they raise prices by more than 10 percent. The health law provided the State of Ohio $5.1 million to combat unjustifiable increases.
Also joining Brown on the call was Col Owens, the Co-Chairman of Ohio Consumers for Health Coverage, a coalition representing hundreds of thousands of the state’s health care consumers.
Ohioans can go to www.healthcare.gov to read about their options or live chat with an expert. They can also call the helpline, which is open 24/7 at 1-800-318-2596.