Blog | Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What patients don't know about Obamacare might help them


I get the question every day: “Hey Doc, I hope I still can come see you after Obamacare.”

Why wouldn’t you still see me?

My state chose not to set up its own health care exchanges. Michiganders have to rely on the federal exchange and there has been no public education about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) The biggest misunderstanding I run into is that people think they are signing up for something called “Obamacare”. If fact, the health care exchanges are simply a tool used to purchase insurance, often at a lower rate than is available shopping on your own.

If you purchase your insurance through healthcare.gov, your card won’t be stamped “Obamacare.” I don’t know where you bought your insurance and I don’t care, as long as it’s a plan I participate in. The ACA also makes it easier to get Medicaid, which is government health care, but this doesn’t apply to most people I’ve spoken to.

Obamacare is most relevant for people who have to buy health insurance on their own rather than through work, and what health care.gov allows you to do is make that purchase with the help of government subsidies and tax breaks. When your insurance company cancelled your plan for the coming year and offered you a higher priced one, you should have said, “No, thanks” and gone to the exchange, which is now working tolerably well.

One patient of mine in particular has a large family and was paying $1,400 per month for insurance. ACA allowed him to find a nearly comparable plan for about $300 per month. In addition to saving him a ton of money, it allowed him to avoid applying to Medicaid, which he felt offered fewer care choices and came with a stigma.

Not everyone will win with Obamacare, but those who can benefit need to stop getting all their news at Fox. Obamacare is insurance reform that will benefit most people who have had limited access to health care.

Peter A. Lipson, ACP Member, is a practicing internist and teaching physician in Southeast Michigan. After graduating from Rush Medical College in Chicago, he completed his internal medicine residency at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. This post first appeared at his blog at Forbes. His blog, which has been around in various forms since 2007, offers "musings on the intersection of science, medicine, and culture." His writing focuses on the difference between science-based medicine and "everything else," but also speaks to the day-to-day practice of medicine, fatherhood, and whatever else migrates from his head to his keyboard.