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Getting a handle on healthcare

Getting a handle on healthcare

By Jodi Becker. CREATED Dec 2, 2013

MILWAUKEE - Getting a handle on healthcare. All this week, and next, we're airing a series of reports about the changes to healthcare in this country. Right now we cover the basics. What is this thing we're reporting on anyway?

You can call it whatever you want: the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare overhaul, Obamacare, but when it comes right down to it, this 'thing' is pretty simple.

"It's a healthcare law," says Marquette University Law Professor Alison Barnes.

Barnes specializes in health law, and is teaching students about the ACA right now.

Barnes adds, "It (the ACA) envisions everybody with health insurance just like you'd insure your car or your home." She says the law sets up ways to identify and afford health insurance coverage if you can't on your own.

The Affordable Care Act is a federal law, but states get to chose how they enact parts of it. One part is something called an exchange, or marketplace. Barnes says they are the same thing and the concept is pretty simple. She described them as, "listings of plans that are approved and available for people to purchase."

A customer would buy health coverage through an exchange when they do not get coverage at work and have to buy it on their own. Wisconsin has decided to allow the federal government to run its marketplace.

"You can chose something that just has a basic package of different categories like physician payments and hospitals and so forth," Barnes explained. "And then there are plans that have more that you'll pay a little higher premium for."

Another jargon term that has been used a lot is the word "navigator". Barnes says their role should be simple.

"They are people or businesses. They are trained to help people to compare plans and decide what they'd like to have," Barnes said.

She added that navigators have to be unbiased and they are always free to use.  


-- LINKS --

National Health Insurance Marketplace

US Dept. of Health and Human Services

Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation