How You Will Be Affected By Obamacare

How many workers' health care coverage will be changed by Obamacare?On Thursday, President Obama felt compelled to make another White House speech about the virtues of health care reform. It's no surprise as the Affordable Care Act remains controversial. But now that the reform is no longer just a politician's goal, but a law that's being implemented piece by piece over the next few years, what does it really mean for the country's 157 million workers? Who will be affected and how?

First, far fewer people than you might think will be impacted, according to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan and nonprofit California-based health care research foundation. "There's a lot of hyperbole out there," says Chris Ryan, a frequent commentator on the health care law and a vice president for ADP, the payroll and benefits firm. "Most businesses will take care of the administrative work themselves and coverage will continue. And that will make 'Obamacare' invisible for most workers."

Big Takeaways From The Kaiser Research:

1. The vast majority of workers likely will see little, if any, changes in their health care. Kaiser found that 95 percent of employers with at least 50 workers already offer health benefits. Those workers will likely see "fairly small, if any" changes, according to Ryan, as the law is intended to leave those plans intact. Most of the changes that workers will see will "be related to administrative issues for health care plans that will be taken of by human resource departments." Caveat: It's still too soon to tell how employers will manage their plans, including whether workers' co-pays and deductibles will rise. But for most workers, "if you're not paying attention, the Affordable Care Act will likely go right by you," Ryan says.

2. Part-time workers will be impacted the most. Anyone who works more than 30 hours a week is to be guaranteed coverage under the law. This group includes part-time workers who put in more than 30 hours a week. Experts estimate that the number of uninsured workers who will gain coverage will be between 5 million and 7 million workers.

3. Everyone will be entitled to coverage. Workers will receive coverage either directly from their employer or -- if the employer decides not to insure them and pay a penalty -- the worker will gain coverage through one of the health care "exchanges" established by Obamacare, as the law is popularly known. (The White House announced that it was delaying by one year, until Jan. 1, 2015, certain penalties relating to the mandate that all employers with more than 50 workers provide their workers with health care insurance, but the exchanges will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014 and will be administered by state governments.) The exchanges will be paid for by contributions from workers themselves and from tax subsidies provided by the federal government. And while specifics such as the size of the deductible will vary from state to state, all workers will be given coverage for maternity leave, prescription drugs and mental health care.

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4. The threat of workers losing their jobs or seeing their hours cut due to Obamacare is probably exaggerated. In a recent poll conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an organization that has fiercely lobbied against Obamacare, 74 percent of small business owners say they will reduce staff or workers' hours so that they don't have to offer health insurance. But Kaiser's research suggests that the workers most likely to lose their jobs under these circumstances amount to a small number of the overall population.

According to the U.S. Population survey, the number of workers who put in 30 hours a week is 6 million, or one out of every 25 workers. And 94 percent of firms with 50 to 199 workers already offer health care protection, according to Kaiser.

5. Still, some employers may scale back coverage. "Employers will be making lots of calculations, and time will tell how they adapt," says Chris Conover, a research scholar at the Center for Health Policy Research at Duke University in an interview with AOL Jobs. Crucially, for instance, employers will have to confront the "Cadillac Tax" provision of the ACA, which will impose a new tax on plans that cost more than $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families. And so, if employers reduce these plans to avoid the tax, workers may have to pay more themselves for deductibles and co-pays for primary and specialty care. And that's just one of many potential new costs that commentators such as Conover caution workers about. In fact, some employers may even decide to opt out altogether, deciding that they'd rather pay a penalty instead of providing health care to employees. But the workers shouldn't worry about being left in the cold. "Those workers will just move over to the exchange," Conover also said. "Either way, the workers will get coverage one way or another."

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