FORTY FORT — The best part of the Affordable Care Act, according to Stephen Stahl, is that he can sell you an insurance policy no matter what.
The federal health care reform law, also known as Obamacare, states no insurer can deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, something Stahl says he is happy about. He said he has been denying policies for more than 20 years because providers don’t like the odds.
At a lightly attended town-hall meeting, Stahl told three Forty Fort residents Obamacare is going to be expensive, but it’s a cost worth paying for the safety net it provides.
The insurance agent from Allentown, who advises the borough on insurance matters, said any essential care will be capped off at a rate found to be reasonable by the researchers who designed the program. A heart-transplant patient can pay a deductible, but his or her expenses end there. The government and the other insurance customers will pick up the rest.
The system gives tax credits for those with lower incomes and allows everyone to buy even the most extensive policies if they can afford the premiums. Families must plan ahead and find a policy that best suits their needs, Stahl said.
Customers of the government’s online insurance marketplaces must sign up during the open enrollment periods, continuing now until March 31, to be eligible for tax credits.
Open enrollment periods are to shrink in the future. The online marketplace is at www.healthcare.gov.
Bad news for smokers
The Affordable Care Act allows insurance companies to charge smokers an additional assessment for their habit. The allowance could take a heavy toll on Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, where about 25 percent of the population smokes.
Smokers in their 20s and 30s might not see a significant premium spike, but those in their 50s or 60s should expect to pay 20 to 25 percent more each year.
While pre-existing conditions are protected from discrimination, older people will pay higher premiums for their expected heavier pull on the shared health care system, Stahl said.
“Older average ages, even for people who are healthy in those age brackets, will pay more,” Stahl said. “(If you) put 200,000 miles on a car, you have to do more than take it in for inspection once a year.”
Stahl said the price for most will go up. He calculated his own family’s premium will cost $5,000 more each year and his family’s deductible will increase by $100.
While most of the Republican lawmakers are pitted against the law going into effect, Stahl, of the same party, said he supports the bill because it allows anyone to more easily get coverage.