Last Modified: Saturday, September 28, 2013 2:20 PM
President Obama likes the fact the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is called Obamacare. It sounds comforting to the uninsured it seeks to protect, but the official name appears to be misleading. Early indications are it isn’t going to be as affordable as we’ve been told.
Enrollment in every state’s health care insurance exchange begins Tuesday. Those who sign up by the end of the year will have health care coverage as of Jan. 1, 2014. There are four major tiers of coverage — bronze (the lowest), silver, gold and, in some areas, platinum.
The exchanges are open to those who are uninsured, those not on Medicaid, which is the federal-state health care program for the poor, and for others who buy their own health care coverage. Additional information will be available online Tuesday at www.HealthCare.gov.
Gov. Bobby Jindal refused to set up the insurance exchanges, so the federal government did it. That means Louisiana citizens will have fewer companies from which to choose and the insurance costs will be higher, according to a report in The Advocate of Baton Rouge.
The newspaper said health care premiums in Louisiana range from a low-income, 27-year-old paying $71 a month to more than $900 a month for a well-earning family of four. It added that the cost for the average state resident is a little higher than the national average.
Louisiana’s Republican congressmen, like most of their counterparts elsewhere, are vigorously opposed to Obamacare. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, who also represents this corner of the state, said young people can expect to see their insurance premium rates increase almost 30 percent. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, quoted BlueCross BlueShield of Louisiana that said a young family could see premium increases of 211 percent.
Obamacare supporters will argue that those numbers are incorrect. However, indications are their numbers aren’t any more reliable. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said premiums nationwide are coming in around 16 percent lower that originally expected. That, too, is misleading because the “expected” was simply a projection by HHS.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, told Forbes magazine there are no comparisons to current rates. He said HHS dodged the question of whose rates are going up, and by how much. The purpose, he said, was to try to distract with a comparison to a hypothetical number that has nothing to do with the actual experience of real people.
MondayMorning, a weekly electronic newsletter that digests news that has an economic impact on the health care industry, earlier this month said critics of Obamacare oppose the insurance mandate, the new taxes and fees and the higher premiums that are coming. It quotes Keith Fitz-Gerald, a Wall Street expert, who called Obamacare one of the single biggest wealth creation opportunities for smart investors to hit the markets in decades.
Supporters of Obamacare dispute all the critics. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., for example, talked with The Advocate about the insurance exchanges.
“This is great news for the 800,000 uninsured people in Louisiana who will now be able to shop for quality ... affordable health care in new marketplaces,” Landrieu said. “With an average of 40 different plans to choose from, Louisianians will have greater choice of competitively priced coverage that they can count on when they need it.”
Landrieu added that coverage is available for those with pre-existing conditions, provides for preventive care and makes it possible for young adults to stay on family plans through age 26.
The general public continued to oppose Obamacare in seven polls conducted this month, according to Real Clear Politics, a source of political news and polling reports. The opposition ranged from 57 percent against in a CNN/Opinion Research poll to 44 percent against in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Obamacare was favored by a high of 43 percent in a Rasmussen Reports poll to a low of 31 percent in favor in the NBC/WSJ poll.
The Associated Press summed up the situation well for persons who will have to work with those insurance exchanges beginning Tuesday.
“Where you live, the plan you pick, family size, age, tax credits based on your income, and even tobacco use will all impact the bottom line,” the AP said. “All those variables could make the system hard to navigate.”
Like Obamacare or not, it’s coming. And, unfortunately, until it takes full effect we won’t get the true picture of its impact. Those of us on Medicare or Medicaid may eventually feel its effects, but for now we can breathe easy. We don’t have to get involved at this point in what could become the most costly, challenging and complex federal government program ever conceived.
• • •Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted By: John L On: 9/29/2013
What an idiot!