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The Affordable Care Act: Where Are We Now?

The law requiring every American to have health coverage was signed into law by President Obama nearly six years ago amid a firestorm of political controversy.

It’s been two years since the insurance marketplaces went online.

In this special report, 9&10’s Adam Bartelmay has a look at how it’s affecting healthcare providers, insurers and people right here in Northern Michigan in 2016.

"I was able to match my coverage that I previously had with my employer," says Carrie Stone.

Carrie Stone, from Kewadin, is one of the hundreds of thousands of people in Michigan who are now insured under the Affordable Care Act.

She had a job where she had coverage, but she decided to leave and branch out on her own, leaving her without.

“It really made sense to me to leave my employer after looking at the healthcare costs being so comparable to what I was paying before, but also having the same kind of coverage," says Carrie.

According to , Carrie has a lot of company among those in Michigan now insured under the ACA. A little more than 341,000 signed up for coverage in 2015.

Forty-two percent of them were new to the marketplace.

"We’ve been averaging about 1,500 new patients a year for the last couple of years, for sure," says Dr. Rawlin.

Dr. J. William Rawlin is the director of the Munson Family Practice Residency.

He says now that more people are insured, they’re coming in for preventative care, which could help keep costs down.

"Prevention is the key.  So, still encouraging people to get that preventative health care to try to keep them well, because overall in the long run that’s going to help out healthcare industry," explains Dr. Rawlin.

It’s already helped Munson Healthcare in terms of the number of people who owe them for care they couldn’t pay for.

"This is the third year in a row for Munson Healthcare that we’ve seen our bad debt and charity care go down," says Francisco.

It’s gone down, but it hasn’t been eliminated.

Margo Francisco is the vice president of planning for Munson Healthcare.

She says many people opt for the cheapest plans on the exchange and that means higher deductibles.

"If you’ve got a $5,000 deductible, that’s a lot of money for the average individual, let alone family in Northern Michigan. So, there is a concern that can people afford these plans," says Francisco.

Jen Seman, senior manager for insurance provider Priority Health in Traverse City, says education is key when deciding what plan you need.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 88 percent of people in Michigan who signed up in 2015 qualified for assistance based on income.

“If the individual is eligible for subsidies, the cost of the plan could go down for them.  So, what one plan costs one family of four might not cost another family of four the same amount," explains Seman.

As with anything, the ACA has its pros and cons.  For Munson, one of the positives is more cooperation in the medical community.

"We see the hospital providers and the out-patient providers working together in a way that they didn’t before, so that we can try to deliver care at the right place, at the right time for each patient, which usually means that is the lowest cost setting," says Francisco.

As for Carrie Stone, she was able to get a subsidy and a lower deductible. 

There was something else she found that helped one of her kids who has several health issues.

"He was able to qualify for Medicare under the Affordable Care Act.  And his coverage through Medicare could be way better than what I could provide him," says Carrie.