As many of us know, our health care system is going through some substantial changes. The Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as ObamaCare, is a bill that was signed by President Barack Obama in March 2010 to improve our country’s health care. It’s objective is to give more Americans access to affordable, quality health insurance and to reduce the growth of health care spending. It also keeps insurance companies from dropping you when you are sick or if you make an honest mistake on your application, prevents against gender discrimination, stops unjustified health care rate hikes, does away with life-time and annual limits, and requires all insurance companies to cover even those with pre-existing conditions (obamacarefacts.com).
This new program will mean that low-income families and those with disabilities and special needs will have more health care insurance and program options. This way, they no longer have to depend on emergency rooms as their primary care providers. These families will now be able to purchase low-cost health care coverage and have access to necessary wellness and rehabilitative programs which will decrease excessive hospital visits. In addition, there will be an emphasis on providing care through community clinics, therefore easing transportation issues that have previously been difficult for both low-income families and those with special needs kids (huffingtonpost.com).
According to NAELA.org, the ACA is the most important legislation affecting special needs planning since 1993. This is when Congress authorized special needs trusts. Before the ACA, President George Bush signed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINDA) that outlawed insurance companies from factoring our individual genetic code when setting insurance prices according to our apparent risk of becoming ill. But once a disease revealed itself, insurance companies could then refuse to issue policies or price policies ridiculously high once the disease or genetic condition became apparent (Forbes.com).
Much of the ACA’s focus is to protect the rights of people with chronic, long-term physical or cognitive conditions. Lack of employment has previously prevented people with disabilities from having access to health care because their disability has made them unable to work. Now, their pre-existing condition will no longer mean denied access to private health care. In addition, it allows children up to the age of 26 to be under their parent’s plan, regardless of location, marriage, or medical status. Also the ACA will cap the amount of money one would have to pay out-of-pocket for premiums and deductibles (NAELA.org).
However, ObamaCare isn’t all special needs oriented. For some, it may actually increase costs. What could be the biggest change is with Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA). Currently, over 30 million Americans place emergency medical funds into a pre-tax FSA through their employers with no limit. But the ACA will be placing a new $2,500 cap, making more money taxable, potentially raising $13 billion in taxes for the federal government over the next 10 years (dailycaller.com). This will especially hurt parents of special needs kids because many use FSAs to pay for special needs education. ObamaCare will further burden taxpayers by changing the amount individuals can claim as itemized deductions for medical expenses. Instead of claiming medical expenses above the previous 7.5% of adjusted gross income, this will raise the threshold to above 10% (atr.org).
The ACA also won’t cover include payment for long-term nursing care and payments for in-home caregiving services. This means that people with disabilities who require these services will likely still need Medicaid to help them with their ongoing care (naela.org). Those needing long-term care represent the single greatest and growing expense for public insurance. Money spent on rehabilitation, although costly, pays off multiple in fold in the long run (Forbes.com).
So the question remains: Will ObamaCare/ACA help or hurt those affected by disabilities?