This week, I attended an informational luncheon presented by the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange, and hosted by the Durango Chamber of Commerce. On the whole, the luncheon was interesting, but, generally speaking, it raised many more questions than it answered.
Both working with and being a small business owner myself, I wanted to understand how the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) is expected to unfold over the next 18 months, and what state-specific issues may be bubbling to the surface.
The Colorado Health Benefit Exchange is fundamentally an online site where you can research, compare, apply for, and purchase health care coverage. From what I understand, it seems very similar to Geico, Progressive, or Esurance, which offer online car insurance. The only differences being that the Exchange is health care-specific, and you can shop for plans offered by numerous health insurance providers all in one spot. It is also important to mention that the Exchange is not yet operational, and is expected to launch in late 2013.
Some of the interesting issues raised during the presentation (as well as during the Q&A session) included:
- Although the Exchange will allow for automated research, application, and buying of insurance plans online, there will not be a large reduction in premiums, as compared to buying plans through traditional brokers;
- In order to curb the trend of employers cutting health care insurance as a result of the recent rise in premiums, there are significant tax credits available to businesses for providing employee health plans (up to 35%), but nearly 80% of the eligible companies have not taken advantage of such credits;
- One of the major effects of the Affordable Care Act will be to distribute or normalize health care premiums and condense age brackets for determining premiums, which will essentially reduce the premiums paid by older individuals, but will significantly increase premiums for young individuals; and
- As a result of the increased premiums for young individuals, it is expected that many will forgo getting insurance coverage and will instead elect to take a $95 penalty on their taxes (which will increase going forward), which essentially defeats many of the rationale for the Act itself.
In the end, regardless of whether you support the Affordable Care Act or not, it is a reality that everyone must face. As a young business owner, my major concern is the expected increase in health care premiums for the young (and healthy), in light of current health care premiums that are already unaffordable.
While the concept of health-care-for-everyone is very appealing, I am now much more skeptical and leery of how health care policy will develop going forward.
To get more information about the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange, you can visit their website: www.getcoveredco.org
A new immigration policy called Deferred Action goes into effect today. The law will allow certain young people protection from deportation for two years and the ability to work legally in the United States. The new law does not allow undocumented young people to stay in the United States forever or allow them to become citizens.
To qualify for Deferred Action you must:
- Be between the ages of 15 and 31;
- Have entered the U.S. at least 5 years ago;
- Have entered the U.S. when you were younger than 16;
- Have graduated from high school, obtained a GED, or currently be in school,
or served in the U.S. military;
- Not have any felony convictions or serious misdemeanors
(Note: one DUI is considered a serious misdemeanor); and
- Have been present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012.
Deferred Action has been misrepresented in the media as a “path to citizenship” or “amnesty.” This is simply untrue. Deferred Action requires undocumented young people to turn themselves in to the federal government, pass a background check, and then the government will “defer action” on their deportation case for two years.
While Deferred Action is an exciting program for many young people that
want to work legally in the U.S. to support their families, it is certainly not
the DREAM Act. But, Deferred Action is a step in the right direction for undocumented young people.
If you think you may qualify for Deferred Action, please speak with an immigration attorney before beginning the process.
This week, the New Mexico Supreme Court announced its decision in Chatterjee v. King
(Opinion # 2012-NMSC-019), which may significantly expand the rights of non-parents who have taken care of their significant-other’s children.
The facts of the case are pretty straightforward. Two women in a long-term relationship decided to adopt a child together. Because of limitations on adoption by same-sex couples, only one woman was able to legally adopt the child. After the adoption was complete, but before the second woman could legally adopt the child, the couple broke up. Needless to say, after the breakup, the non-adoptive woman wanted to visit and maintain her relationship with the child.
What makes this case interesting is how the court reached its decision. Generally speaking, to have the right to visit a child you must be either a natural parent, meaning you gave birth to the child, or you must be the legal / adoptive parent, which means that you have legally established yourself as the parent. If you cannot show either form of relationship, then you must establish visitation as a third party, such as a grandparent, which is much more difficult to do.
Historically, men and women have been treated differently when dealing with child custody and support for obvious reasons. For a woman, it is much easier to prove that she is the natural or biological parent: she was there when it happened. But, for men, there is much more grey area as to proving who the father is. As a result, under the New Mexico Uniform Parentage Act (UPA), a father can establish a presumption that he is a natural parent by showing four things:
- Personal relationship with the child;
- Financial relationship with the child;
- Custodial relationship with the child; and
- Holding out the child as their own to others.
Therefore, because this alternate test to prove a parental relationship exists for a man, the court held that it should also be available for a woman.
This will clearly impact people who have acted as parents to children, but who have never formally established a legal relationship through adoption, as well as same-sex couples who were previously prevented from creating such rights.