Nel's New Day

October 29, 2013

Re Heathcare.gov Issues

Imagine living in a country where the government pays for your major medical expenses without a lot of registration, picking an insurance company, and checking on possible subsidies. In this country you wouldn’t shop for insurance; you’d just register. If you live in the United States, you already have this—if you’re over 65. It’s called Medicare, and it’s popular. Most people don’t worry about socialism; they’re just grateful that they have basic insurance. It doesn’t cover everything, but it’s much better than no insurance at all.

There’s one reason that everyone in the United States doesn’t have the same insurance—insurance companies. With their lobbying power and the Tea Party selfish craziness of the Tea Party, we have settled for a “better-than-nothing” solution. Republicans would like to get rid of Medicare, too, but the majority of their constituents are either on or near the program.

During the federal government shutdown, we rarely heard the  word “glitch.” Since the media forgot how the far-right tried to destroy the country, they are in full attack mode against the Affordable Care Act.

As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote, “A nation that waited several decades for health insurance is becoming increasingly infuriated by a Web site that is wasting minutes of its time, reports from across the United States confirm.” Actually,  the country has been waiting for over 70 years to have a watered-down version of health care.

For the second time in a decade, the government launched a health care website Back in 2005, the launch online shopping for Medicare prescription drug programs was three weeks late. A review of the 1-800 Medicare phone number indicated that the agency “only responded to calls accurately and completely only about two-thirds of the time.” An annual booklet sent out to seniors called “Medicare & You” contained “inaccurate details about some of the prescription plan choices.” Stories about the poor launch of the 2005 reform were back on page 17 of the Washington Post; problems with HealthCare.Gov are typically front-page news.

When Medicare Part D (the prescription addition to Medicare) premiered, it was far less popular than Obamacare. Part D started out with a 21 percent favorability. Since then, it has a 90 percent popularity.

On the floor of the House, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) tried to remind Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR) and other GOP members of the House of events eight years ago, five years before the Tea Party elected Griffin. The Democrats didn’t like George W. Bush’s Medicare drug program with its huge gap without insurance and the fact that drug prices could not be negotiated. Yet they convinced their constituents to enroll instead of whining through 40+ bills to get rid of Part D. Griffin tried to defend the GOP by claiming that they have co-sponsored proposals, but Pascrell pointed out that there no legitimate alternatives. Maybe that’s why Griffin has said he won’t be running in the next election.   

The media has joined the GOP in denigrating the Affordable Care Act:

CBS told the story of a woman who was forced off a $54 per month policy for one that cost ten times as much. The cancellation letter gave the Affordable Care Act as the reason. The woman’s “junk insurance” didn’t even cover hospitalization, and it gave her only $50 for a procedure. For example, if she needed a $2,000 MRI, the insurance paid only $50, leaving the balance for her to pay.

Most of the policies being canceled were sold after the ACA became law: insurance companies knew they were selling policies that failed to comply with Obamacare. Customers were not told that these policies would have to be replaced. Because of GOP pressure, grandfathered policies are allowed yearly limits on coverage while they are not required to offer a “essential health benefits” package.

NBC News reported that “50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a ‘cancellation’ letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law.” The White House had told Congress that in 2010 that policies after 2014 could not unfairly burden customers. The law keeps policies from canceling coverage when a person becomes ill, imposing lifetime limits on benefits, eliminating all benefits for a particular condition, and reducing the cap for covered services each year. People actually benefit because enrolling through an exchange may cost them less, especially if they get subsidies.

CNN  interviewed people trying to get onto the health care website. When a women responded that she really liked what she saw, the host immediately moved on to someone else. Like all the other media, CNN is clogging the website by playing with it. If everyone stayed off of it except people who actually need the information, it might work better.

Fox’s Sean Hannity found six people willing to misrepresent reasons for their dislike of Obamacare. A couple who complained about not growing their construction business by keeping employees under a certain number of hours has only four employees. Proving health insurance is required only for businesses with 50 or more employees. A woman who complained about her rates going up hadn’t bothered to check the exchange. If she had, she would have found a 60-percent reduction from pre-Obamacare market. Another couple with the same complaint said that they also had not gone to the exchange but instead went to an insurance agent because they oppose Obamacare. The exchange would save them 63 percent of their bill.

Hannity also hosted Dr. Marc Siegel who complained that too many people have access to health care. He said that not everyone can get into his office to see him because of health insurance. “There’s a shortage of doctors. So what do they do? They’re going to pay us less.”

On Mike Huckabee’s program people complained about rate increase. One of them who said that her rates went up was unemployed and eligible for Medicaid. She said, however, that she wouldn’t take it because someone else might need it more.

Meanwhile the GOP members are just flat-out lying:

  • Real cost of the website: $70 million, not Fox’s guess of $634.
  • Website not designed to deceive customers: The site lists the actual cost to people before listing cost without subsidies.
  • No interference from the White House: Contractors denied Rep. Darrell Issa’s accusation that the administration botched the website development by making the “political decision” to mask the costs of insurance premiums online.
  • No HIPPA Violation: No breach of privacy because the website doesn’t ask for health information.
  •  No delay in individual mandate: The only delay is the sign-up deadline, not when people receive the insurance.

Basic facts about the Affordable Care Act:

  • The federal government is operating marketplaces in 36 states, and 14 states and the District of Columbia are operating their own marketplaces.
  • Marketplace plans offer five levels of coverage—catastrophic, bronze, silver, gold, and platinum—ranging from less generous to more generous.
  • Individuals with family income from one to four times the federal poverty level (about $26,000 to $94,000 for a family of four)—and who are not eligible for other qualified coverage—are eligible for tax credits to help cover the cost of a plan, based on the silver plan.
  • The tax credit caps the amount an individual must pay for the second-lowest-cost silver plan at a certain percentage of family income, ranging from 2 percent of income at the poverty level to 9.5 percent of income at four times the poverty level.
  • Increased competition has lowered the cost of premiums in the individual market, meaning that the U.S. will pay $190 billion less than expected and lowering the ten-year deficit by $300 billion.
  • An additional 700,000 people will gain coverage over the earliest projection.
  • Of young people on their parents’ plan, 63 percent belong to the GOP as compared with 45 percent who register as Democrats.

Almost 80 years ago, Social Security got to a rocky start, beginning with employers reporting earnings with no name or SSN. Four years after the Act went into effect, syndicated columnist Drew Pearson tried to create panic by claiming that people would never receive their benefits. Now the entire situation is an obscure historical footnote.

Almost 700,000 eligible seniors refused to sign up for Medicare less than 50 years ago because they mistakenly thought that they were giving up Social Security. Some segregated Southern cities had no participating hospitals because Medicare required that they comply with the new Civil Rights Act. Originally doctors billed patients directly, causing long waits for the seniors’ reimbursements.

The enactment of government-financed income tax sent people over the edge because of the forms’ complexity. After one-hundred years, people still complain but most accept, especially when they think about the many government benefits from the country’s infrastructure. No politician has emerged victorious for the past century in getting rid of the progressive tax.

In less than a decade, the Affordable Care Act will be a success, and most people—even those elected to Congress—will not remember any problems in its inception. Or maybe there will be a better solution by then—universal health care.

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