First it was the website troubles. Healthcare.gov has crashed repeatedly — or perhaps “continuously” is a better word. The site seems to be unavailable more often than it is available to Americans trying to research coverage options, let alone sign up. According to a government report dated November 13, 2013, just 26, 794 individuals had selected a plan through the Federal website as of last week. Another 79,000 had selected plans via state healthcare exchange websites.
Then other news rocked the American public: nearly 5 million Americans have had their healthcare coverage cancelled, by one estimate. Millions more are expected to get cancellation notices over the coming year.
Policies are being cancelled because plans don’t meet requirements for certain mandated coverage. Let’s say you’re past childbearing age – you may still be required to have a policy with maternity benefits. Or you have a high deductible policy, and you’re OK with it because you’re relatively healthy. It doesn’t matter. Insurance companies are required to cancel policies that don’t meet certain requirements.
The cancellation news started as a trickle and soon became a flash flood. There’s at least one site set up where Americans are sharing their health insurance cancellation notices at MyCancellation.com.
Self-Employed Business Owners are Impacted
Despite the delay in the employer mandate until 2015, small businesses are being impacted by Obamacare right now. The individual mandate is still in place. Self-employed business owners and freelancers are among the very people likely to have health coverage under individual plans — or no coverage.
Two examples from the ranks of the self-employed demonstrate the situation some small business owners now find themselves in.
Bruce Barcott, a freelance writer, was notified that his insurance premium would go up by 94%. Even though he and his wife would have preferred to stay with their high-deductible plan, they couldn’t. But when he went to his state’s healthcare exchange website, he was met with few good options and many unanswered questions. The result: frustration. He writes that he found himself, “seething at a President I helped elect.”
He’s still an Obamacare supporter. His point is that he expected clarity and competence.
And remember Jessica Sanford, the self-employed court reporter touted by President Obama as being an Obamacare success story? Turns out she isn’t. If you recall, she was the woman who penned a thank-you letter to President Obama when she thought she would be qualifying for a healthcare credit and inexpensive insurance. In October, she was present standing behind President Obama during a Rose Garden speech (she’s in red, in the above image).
After that she was notified that the Washington state exchange she used made a series of complex errors. Now she says she won’t be getting low-cost health insurance coverage after all. She will instead pay the $95 penalty, she is quoted in a CNN story as saying:
“I had a good cry,” Sanford said about her reaction to the latest news from the state.
As a self-employed court reporter, the new quote was simply out of her range.
“This is it. I’m not getting insurance,” Sanford told CNN. “That’s where it stands right now unless they fix it.”
She says she’s still an Obama fan, though.
No Easy Fix
Meanwhile, President Obama has proposed a fix for the cancellations, involving allowing people to opt to keep their cancelled policies for one year. However, the situation is not going to be easy or quick to fix because it involves state insurance regulators and the entire health insurance industry — not just politicians in Washington.
Some self-employed business owners are asking the question: will my family and I be better off under the Affordable Care Act in 2014? The answer as of this moment for some seems to be either “no” or “I just don’t know.”