As President Obama's health care overhaul begins to change how Americans get their health insurance, the nearly 22 million people who are self-employed will see some of the most dramatic changes, with perhaps half of them headed for the new health exchanges in the fall.
I'm one of them - I recently received notice that the insurance I had been buying for three years would "terminate." I will be shopping for coverage on one of the new health insurance exchanges.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 9 million people will buy their 2014 health insurance on one of the new state marketplaces, after they open on October 1. By 2016, that will rise to 23 million, the CBO says.
"The vast majority of people know it is coming, but it is a very abstract thing," says Katie Vlietstra, director of government affairs at the National Association for the Self-Employed, an organization that has sold health insurance to its members in the pre-Obamacare world. She figures that roughly half of all self-employed people will be shopping on the exchanges.
In late May, I received notification from The Entertainment Group Insurance Trust that my existing insurance - an Oxford Health sole proprietor plan in New York - would terminate December 31. TEIGIT has administered plans for sole proprietors, small businesses and members of participating arts and entertainment associations since 1965.
"We will not have other plans to offer you," TEIGIT noted in a follow-up email. "No other brokers will have alternate options available." (Oxford's parent company, UnitedHealthcare, did not respond to a request for comment.)
With New York state's health insurance exchange not yet open and no way to shop immediately for a new plan, I felt the momentary rush of panic. What would I find to replace my corporate-like health plan, which had covered me for both in-network and out, with a low deductible. Would it be as good, and what would it cost?
While there's no way to know how many self-employed people are getting letters like this, I'm sure that I'm not alone. Whether your health insurance is going away at year-end because it fails to meet the terms of health reform, because of an insurer's business decision or some other reason, you might be in the same boat I am - left waiting for the exchanges to open with big, unanswered questions.
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