Oct. 1 means different things to different people.
By the numbers
755,487: Estimated number of South Carolinians without health insurance
$95: Penalty individuals face for not purchasing a health insurance policy by March 31, 2014. The fine will be collected in 2015 by the Internal Revenue Service.
4: Insurance companies offering health plans through the federal exchange for South Carolina residents to purchase
26: States expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act
22: States opting out of Medicaid expansion
3: States still debating Medicaid expansion — New Hampshire, Ohio and Tennessee — according to the Kaiser Family Foundation
$4.1 billion: Amount of federal funds South Carolina is rejecting that would have expanded Medicaid in South Carolina through 2017
27: States not establishing their own insurance marketplaces and instead defaulting to the federally facilitated marketplace, including South Carolina
$1.3 trillion: Projected cost of the Affordable Care Act through 2023, as estimated by the Congressional Budget Office
42: Number of times Congress has unsuccessfully voted to repeal the bill
Critics of federal health care reform say it’s doomsday. Cheerleaders for the Affordable Care Act call it Christmas morning — or at least the beginning of the holiday shopping season.
For a lot of us, Oct. 1 is just another Tuesday.
Love it or hate it, though, this is a big week for Obamacare.
The U.S. Census estimates that 48.6 million Americans, and more than 750,000 South Carolinians, have no health insurance. These are the people who need to sign up for a plan to comply with the law. Starting Tuesday, they can do just that.
On Tuesday, the federal government opens enrollment for health insurance plans at www.healthcare.gov. Coverage under the plans won’t begin until Jan. 1, but purchasing a plan in advance ensures that individuals are covered when they need to be.
Adults who don’t sign up for health insurance next year face a $95 fine.
The vast majority — more than 80 percent — of South Carolina residents won’t need to bother with the new insurance marketplace. More than 3.1 million South Carolinians already carry health insurance cards. Some are enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid. Others have plans that they’ve purchased directly through insurance companies. Most are insured by their employers.
These plans, with very few exceptions, meet the Affordable Care Act’s requirements.
The cost of these plans may go up. How much premiums will increase — if at all — is still unknown. Some employers may choose to shoulder any increases; others could pass them along to employees. Some businesses may drop coverage. The ending of this story hasn’t been written.
But the law will make health insurance more affordable than ever before for many people, through government subsidies.
It also prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to anyone with pre-existing conditions and allows children up to age 26 to maintain coverage through their parents’ plans — two of the more popular aspects of the controversial bill.
Much has been made of the Affordable Care Act and if you’re a little confused, you’re not alone.
According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News national poll, 62 percent of adults interviewed said they did not feel like they had enough information to understand changes that “will occur as the new health care law takes effect.”
Luckily, you’ve come to the right place.
To access our past coverage of health care reform, visit www.postandcourier.com/obamacare.