DEARBORN — With the launch of the Michigan Health Insurance Exchange set for Oct. 1, U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-District 12, unveiled a new guidebook Tuesday to help residents across the district navigate through the nuisances of the Affordable Care Act.
"This book explains what the Affordable Care Act means to individuals, it will explain tax credits to small businesses, and it will tell you how to navigate the system and select a healthcare plan that is best tailored to your needs," Dingell said during a press conference at Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center in Dearborn.
Under the Affordable Care Act, millions of uninsured individuals will be mandated to purchase a health insurance plan through individual state health insurance “exchanges." Anyone who opts out will have to pay a fee. In 2014, that fee is equal to 1 percent of your yearly income, or $95 per person for the year, whichever is higher. The fee for uninsured children is $47.50 per child.
The fee increases every year. In 2016, it is 2.5 percent of your income, or $695 per person, whichever is higher.
"The fee is to discourage people from not signing up. We can't have freeloaders," Dingell said.
Dingell said the exchanges will allow residents in Michigan to price shop for low-cost health insurance options. So far 14 carriers have filed to offer plans through the health insurance exchange. Examples include Alliance Health and Life Insurance Company, Blue Care Network of Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and United Healthcare Life Insurance Company.
Dingell has been a strong vocal advocate for the Affordable Healthcare Act since authoring the legislation that
passed in the House of Representatives in 2009.
"I am convinced our nation is a healthier one today as we are now on a path to bring health insurance to 32 million Americans who now don't have it. Healthcare is no longer a privilege, it is now a right," Dingell said.
Addressing comments from opponents who claim healthcare reform is
turning the United States into a country of part-time employers, Dingell said the argument lacks substance.
"Businesses have to maintain a viable workforce, and if they are very small, they can receive an exemption," he said. "The arguments against offering employees healthcare is a scare tactic using information taken out of context."
In June, the Obama administration delayed until January 2015, the mandate that business owners with 50 or more full-time employees offer health insurance or pay a $2,000 per qualified employee penalty.
Companies complained that they didn't have enough time to comply with the Affordable Care Act's regulations and needed more time to determine if their workforce would trigger the mandate,
according to Modern Healthcare.
Under the new law, a full-time employee is defined as averaging 30 or more hours per week over a 60-day period. The first 30 employees are excluded from the penalty. For example, an employer with 75 employees would pay the penalty for 45 workers, or $90,000,
the news website reports.
The launch of Michigan's insurance exchange comes on the heels of a stalled vote in the state Senate to expand Medicaid to an additional 500,000 residents.
State Sen. Morris Hood, D-District 3, said he expects a vote on the legislation by the end of August.
"We need to get this done," Hood said.
According to Hood, expanding Medicaid in Michigan would extend health care coverage to residents who are under 133 percent of the federal poverty level. In total, 320,000 Michiganders would be covered in the first year of the expansion, and an estimated 470,000 would be covered by 2021. Michigan’s uninsured population will drop by approximately 46 percent if the expansion is enacted.
Medicaid expansion also includes a 48-month cap on benefits offered through the legislation. Because this differs from what is allowed under federal law, Hood said the state must seek a waiver from the federal government before the expansion can be implemented in January 2014.
"The longer it takes this bill to pass the Senate, the less likely it becomes that a waiver will be granted in time. Failure to pass this bill will result in Michigan losing out on an additional $2 billion in federal Medicaid funding," he said.
Extending healthcare coverage could give the state's economy a much needed boost, Hood said.
"It will end a lot of problems in the long run. It will keep people from coming to the emergency room just for day-to-day care. We need to stop that," he said. "The cost is too astronomical. We're trying to save American tax dollars by offering preventive care for many ailments that can be addressed early on in order to keep people out of our hospitals and emergency rooms."
To view a copy of Dingell's The ABC's of Navigating the Affordable Care Act, visit