By Larry Grard
For Karen Ross of Buxton and many other Mainers, the Affordable Care Act has offered a welcome insurance option.
Ross was in a bind. Her insurance company had discontinued her discount insurance. As a result, Ross, who with her husband William, runs Krayola Kids Day Care in Buxton, was prepared to go without coverage until she qualified for Medicare – in a little more than five years.
However, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, came along at just the right time for Ross.
“I was going to go without insurance and take that chance,” said Ross, 59. “I seldom go to a doctor. It would have been cheaper to pay doctors’ bills out of pocket. Basically, I would have been without insurance if (Obamacare) hadn’t come along.”
Ross said she her insurance company canceled a low-cost policy for self-employed people in December. Her husband, who just turned 65, now qualifies for Medicare.
“I had to find new insurance anyway, and Obamacare came along,” she said.
Knowing her policy was to expire, Ross registered for the government-run exchange. But she hadn’t studied her options thoroughly, and ran into snags.
“The biggest thing is knowing what plan you want,” she said. “The thing to do is to know what you want before you sign up. I ended up calling and calling, and I finally got a call back. I chose a plan over the phone, and it was pretty simple at that point. You can check online and see what coverage is best for you.”
Ross said she is paying for health insurance based on her income. Her premiums are about the same as they were with the private plan, but the coverage is better, she said.
However, the rollout has not been free from issues or a boon for everyone.
Glitches on the Helthcare.gov website, which at first prevented people from signing up, have been well documented. Young people weren’t filing, which decreased the pool and increased costs, although recent reports indicate that is changing.
And last month, President Obama decided to delay the employer mandate, which would have required businesses with more than 50 employees working 30 hours or more per week to provide affordable health insurance coverage to workers or face fines. Businesses that employ 50 to 99 full-time workers will have another year to provide the coverage.
Still, Ross sees Obamacare as a good thing for the self-employed, and the unemployed.
“Being self-employed, we were at the point we were taking in extra kids just to have health insurance,” she said. “That has always been the downfall of being self-employed.”
As a result of her experience, Ross said, she has encouraged a relative who is unemployed to sign up for Obamacare.