Experts advise East Texans to start looking at healthcare change - WDAM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

Experts advise East Texans to start looking at healthcare changes

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TYLER, TX (KLTV) -

In less than a month, all Texans will have to begin making a decision about what they will do regarding their health insurance.

Beginning October 1, new federal exchanges should become available under the Affordable Care Act reforms.

See the government's website about the new healthcare programs available Oct. 1 here.

It is a change that impacts all of restaurant owner Lloyd Nichol's employees.

"When I ask any employee what their decision is going to be on October 1st concerning healthcare, their answer is, ‘what decision?'" said Nichols, owner of The Diner in Tyler.

They will be among the many individuals who have to decide whether or not to participate in a plan from the federal exchange. Individuals can also opt to take a penalty of up to 2.5% of their income once the law is in full effect.

"If you had decision to hold on to 10% of your check for insurance or pay the government 2.5% of your check for a fine, well it doesn't take long for people to pay the fine and do without," Nichols said."

California, New York, Oregon and Washington all recently reported premiums lower than expected, but think tank Rand Corp. estimates Texas' premiums will rise 9.3% over last year, largely because Texas will not have its own exchange.

"We didn't want to fund it from a state perspective," said Texas Association of Health Underwriter Member Wendy Bratteli. "They're putting state taxpayer dollars into their exchange. There's nothing in that ACA bill that tackles costs, it's just to get somebody insured and fund it with taxpayer dollars."

Bratteli said it is something that everyone needs to pay close attention to.

"The fines are coming for the individuals in January regardless," she said. "If you don't have it, you're going to pay the fine. Hopefully people are being thoughtful about it."

In January of 2015, Nichols predicts consumers will take another hit, as businesses begin to fall under the mandate to either provide their employees insurance or pay the penalty.

"Employers are already reducing positions in anticipation of healthcare reform," he said. "That's the whole retail industry, not just food."

Insurance rates have not yet been released for the Texas market, as providers continue to await approval from the Federal government for their plans.

Experts predict that should occur around September 15.

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