With Thanksgiving only two days away, many of us who are lucky enough to not have to go to work are getting ready to spend the day with family and friends. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by progressive people who don’t watch Fox and look at the world with a rationale mind. For those who have invited the crazy uncle, one of Rachel Maddow’s favorite characters, here are some ways to talk about the Obamacare controversy. He may not listen, but at least you’ll have your talking points ready.
MYTH: “Obamacare will make my premiums go up.”
FACT: Most people will probably pay lower health insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act—certainly House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) because he isn’t complaining about higher costs. Many others—nearly 75 percent of people in individual plans—will be eligible for financial assistance. Those who have to pay more or don’t get subsidies most likely live in states where politicians block the new law. For example, a person in Wisconsin spends an annual average of $1800 more than a person in Minnesota.
Before Obamacare, people paid money for many services not covered by the insurance plan—sometimes even hospitalization; the new law has rules about what plans have to cover. Thus premiums may be higher, but in the long run people pay less. With people using preventive care instead of expensive emergency care, costs will be less for everyone.
MYTH: “Obama lied about me being able to keep my health care plan under Obamacare.”
FACT: President Obama didn’t lie. The law grandfathered in all existing “junk” policies, but insurance companies kept adding them, knowing that they wouldn’t be allowed to keep foisting them on people after Obamacare went into effect so they could move them on to more expensive plans. Health insurance companies are responsible for the cancellation of their policies.
The new law requires health insurance plans must cover at least 60 percent of the total cost of medical services for a standard population. Plans must also cover at least ten essential services, including lab services and hospitalization. Just as the government has rules about selling lead toys, bad meat, and moldy produce, the new law established rules about the quality of health insurance plans. People who don’t check the Health Insurance Marketplace for a less expensive plan, they deserve to pay more.
MYTH: “Obamacare steals from Medicare.”
FACT: The Affordable Care Act actually helps Medicare by eliminating waste and inefficiency. Politifact and most other news organizations that have covered the issue have proved this myth false. Medicare benefits are not affected by the health reform law, but they would be affected if we turned it into a voucher system.
The Affordable Care Act can potentially save $716 billion over 10 years by reducing Medicare spending—reducing subsidies to private Medicare Advantage plans and taxing drug companies, device makers, and insurers. These taxes won’t cost companies more because the law gives them many new customers. Medicare benefits can only be affected by budgets from conservative people in Congress such as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) if they pass laws that replace Medicare with “vouchers” on the private market.
MYTH: “Obamacare is forcing me to buy health care.”
FACT: People can pay a small fee if they don’t purchase health insurance. But people need to know that no one can escape the need for health care. Young people may think that they are invincible until they contract meningitis or get hit by a speeding car. Until now, people who could not afford health insurance or chose not to buy it simply got medical care at the emergency rooms. If they couldn’t afford to pay for costs at the emergency room, other people did it—creating higher premiums for people who have health insurance. That means that everyone in the United States was paying for “universal health care” because no one can be denied health care at emergency rooms. It was just far more expensive.
MYTH: “Obamacare isn’t working because the federal government can’t do anything right.”
FACT: The Affordable Care Act is working, as evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of people who are already getting Medicaid and have signed up for health insurance through exchanges in some states. Healthcare.gov, the website, is not working well right now. But that’s a temporary problem. Also Obamacare has been working well for years as young people could be kept on parents’ plans until they turned 26, lifetime caps were done away with, people got rebates from insurance companies because the overhead costs were too high, and preexisting conditions could not keep people from getting insurance.
The part of Obamacare that doesn’t work is in states where GOP politicians refuse to accept federal money to ensure people through Medicaid. Without that benefit, poor people are still going to emergency rooms, driving up costs for people who do have insurance. Social Security and Medicare work just fine now although there were glitches in these popular programs when they were first developed.
MYTH: “Obamacare is a government takeover of health care. I don’t want socialized medicine!”
FACT: Every plan on the Health Insurance Marketplace comes from a private company. The program is based on free-market capitalism in which every insurance company can charge what it wants. The difference is that people can see what each one costs, and the competition brings down prices. In the past, buying insurance was like going into restaurants with no prices listed on their menus.
The original idea for the Affordable Care Act came from the conservative Heritage Foundation and first proposed by GOP members of Congress in the early 1990s. The law took great chunks out of GOP bills in Congress, a total of 38.5 percent, in fact.
MYTH: “We can’t afford Obamacare.”
FACT: The Affordable Care Act pays for itself and cuts the federal deficit at the same time. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates Obamacare will cut the federal budget deficit by $210 billion dollars within eight years. These savings come from a combination of putting fees on insurers and device-makers, ending subsidies to expensive Medicare Advantage plans, and reducing Medicare payments to hospitals and insurers by eliminating waste and fraud. And at the same time, individual people are paying less for their health insurance plans.
A few more basics of the Affordable Care Act:
- Very little is changing for the vast majority of Americans, despite the anecdotes that the media and conservative lawmakers have provided—many of them false. The big changes are mostly taking place in the “non-group” market—that is, for individuals who buy coverage on their own rather than through an employer, Medicare, or Medicaid.
- One of the law’s goal is for everyone to have a decent health insurance policy with a comprehensive set of benefits and limits on what people pay out-of-pocket.
- Another goal is to give coverage at uniform prices regardless of people’s pre-existing conditions—“guaranteed issue” and “community rating.”
- Reforms already keeping down the price of insurance include limiting the amount of money that insurance companies can siphon off for premiums and overhead, saving $2.1 billion for people last year.
- Subsidies offsetting premium increases, up to several thousands of dollars, will help almost 75 percent of people on individual plans.
- Many people buying individual insurance will find that they pay much less now for health insurance because of tax credits or eligibility for Medicaid—at least in the states that allow people to benefit from these savings.
Just as each person is different, each plan is different based on income, place of residence, etc. The biggest concern is that the young, healthy, and wealthy subsidize the old, sick, and non-wealthy. It’s what we do with Social Security. When those young people get old, other young people will pay for them. People with no children still pay for schools, people with no need for police still pay for law enforcement—the list goes on. That’s called citizenship.
Answers for relatives other than your crazy uncle are at this website. At least you’re not sitting down at the same table as Liz and Mary Cheney.
Republican politicians are terrified that the Affordable Care Act will be a success. The new “House Republican Playbook” has sent its membership home over Thanksgiving to look for Obamacare horror stories and then publish them far and wide.
In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is having a rocky time running for re-election after declaring Obamacare as unsalvageable. He represents a state considered one of the unhealthiest and most uninsured in the country—640,000 people with no insurance. Now the state has signed up 48,000 people for insurance and are adding over 1,000 a day.
Kentuckian Ronald Hudson now has insurance for the first time in his life. With five kids, his salary is $14,000, and he owes $23,000 in hospital bills. When he is told that he qualifies for a medical card, he said, “Well, thank God! I believe I’m going to be a Democrat.”
That’s what the GOP fears.