EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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November 1, 2013

5 myths about the Affordable Care Act

(Continued)

In truth, the health-care law makes a number of changes to the insurance industry that will affect the nearly 165 million Americans covered by private plans. For one, it requires all health plans to include a wider set of benefits, among them maternity care and mental health services. Employers have responded by increasing premiums by less than 3 percent, on average, to make up for the cost of these new benefits.

The individual market, where 15 million Americans buy their own coverage, will see even bigger changes. Experts estimate that insurers will discontinue at least half of these plans in 2014 because they do not cover the benefits that the Affordable Care Act requires. Some say the number could be even higher, around 75 to 80 percent.

CBS News has reported that more than 2 million people have already received word from their insurers that the health plans they have now won't be available next year. Customers who receive a cancellation notice will need to shop for new coverage. Those plans could have a higher price tag because they offer more benefits, although many people will receive financial help from the government to buy a new policy.

3. The exchange's big problem is that it's overwhelmed by traffic.

The federal exchange did get a lot of traffic at first; the White House estimates that 8 million people visited the site in its first four days To put that in perspective, as one Web developer recently did, that's more users in HealthCare.gov's first 24 hours than Twitter had in its first 24 months.

Traffic has decreased since then, and some people have successfully purchased insurance through the online marketplace. That's led insurance companies to discover another, even more serious problem with the exchange: It's sending inaccurate enrollment data to insurers. Companies are supposed to get a file from the exchange each time someone enrolls in one of their plans. These files include important information such as where the new subscriber lives and how many people are in her family. But insurers say these files are sometimes wrong, listing children as spouses, for instance, or including an address that doesn't exist.

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