More Good News On Health Care Reform

With Republicans constantly putting out false ads and other misinformation regarding the effects of the Affordable Care Act, it is worthwhile to periodically look at the real news. As Politico points out, millions more people now have health care coverage:

A panel of health insurers agreed Tuesday that the number of insured people in the country has climbed by millions, despite arguments by some Republicans that the insured population has declined because of canceled plans.

“I don’t doubt that,” said Jay Gellert, president and CEO of the California-based Health Net, when asked whether there’s any real question that the nation’s insured population has grown.

Gellert spoke at a POLITICO Pro Health Care Breakfast Briefing with Karen Ignagni, CEO of the trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans, and James Roosevelt, president and CEO of the Massachusetts-based Tufts Health Plan.

Ignagni said that the rush of sign-ups late in the Affordable Care Act’s first enrollment period – which ended March 31 – were significantly younger than the earliest enrollees.

Some of those who initially opposed Obamacare are now benefiting from it:

Dean Angstadt fells trees for a living.

He’s a self-employed, self-sufficient logger who has cleared his own path for most of his 57 years, never expecting help from anyone. And even though he’d been uninsured since 2009, he especially wanted nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act.

“I don’t read what the Democrats have to say about it because I think they’re full of it,” he told his friend Bob Leinhauser, who suggested he sign up.

That refrain changed this year when a faulty aortic valve almost felled Angstadt. Suddenly, he was facing a choice: Buy a health plan, through a law he despised, that would pay the lion’s share of the cost of the life-saving surgery – or die. He chose the former.

“A lot of people I talk to are so misinformed about the ACA,” Angstadt said. “I was, before Bob went through all this for me. I would recommend it to anybody and, in fact, have encouraged friends, including the one guy who hauls my logs.”

Later in the report:

Angstadt faces a long recovery, but his conversion to ACA supporter is done. The political storm around the ACA, he said, is the political parties “fighting each other over things that can benefit people.”

“For me, this isn’t about politics,” he added. “I’m trying to help other people who are like me, stubborn and bullheaded, who refused to even look. From my own experience, the ACA is everything it’s supposed to be and, in fact, better than it’s made out to be.”

This example is of a person who had been uninsured because of being self-employed. One benefit of the Affordable Care Act, often distorted by conservatives, has been to get people out of the “insurance trap” where they had to work for large companies in order to obtain coverage. This means more people can start their own businesses or retire early:

Until recently, Mike Smith, 64, worked 11 hours a day, Monday through Friday and then half a day on Saturday, as a district manager for a national auto parts chain — a schedule he’s kept for nearly 40 years.  Early retirement, while certainly appealing, wasn’t a viable option for him because both he and his already-retired wife, Laura, also 64, relied heavily on his job-provided health insurance.

“At our age, with some preexisting medical conditions, it would have been very costly to buy insurance on the open market – about $3,000 a month,” he says.

But the Affordable Care Act changed that. The federal health law bars insurance companies from charging higher premiums to those with preexisting conditions, so the Smiths have been able to find a plan they can afford. The couple pays $200 a month for a subsidized health insurance policy they bought through California’s state-run marketplace, Covered California.

And that’s brought a big change to Smith’s household:  He’s joined Laura in early retirement. That means more time for him to help Laura care for his elderly in-laws as well as more down time to pursue some budding passions, namely playing his guitar and cooking new recipes.

But early retirees aren’t the only people benefitting from the federal health law.

A recent study by Georgetown University and the Urban Institute predicts the ACA will enable up to 1.5 million Americans to leave unfulfilling jobs and become self-employed or start new businesses. It’s a finding that runs counter to forecasts by ACA critics, who contend the federal health law will cost the nation jobs and cripple America’s small business economy.

It will take years to know for certain how the health law will change the work landscape broadly, but already the law has changed life for Rebecca Murray.

Last year, the Chicago resident says, her husband — a freelance IT worker — was diagnosed with chronic spinal arthritis. He needed good health insurance, which he received through Murray’s job as a social worker for a dialysis corporation. But Murray didn’t like her job.

Murray and her husband are both 31, with a 20-month-old daughter and a second child on the way. Before the Affordable Care Act, they couldn’t get insurance on the individual market market because of his preexisting condition.

But under the federal health law, they now qualify for a subsidized policy that will cost $535 a month for the whole family. Not inexpensive by any means, she says, but it does allow her to quit her job and launch an online business to help young women, like her, take care of sick loved ones.

“It’s thrilling. It’s exciting. It’s kind of like taking a leap into the unknown, and I know it’s a big risk,” she says of her new venture. “But this really is allowing me to finally step into what I feel is truly satisfying for the soul,” she says, adding that just a year ago, “I was convinced I would be a renal social worker for the next 30-something years and just raise my kids and hope they could live out their dreams instead.”

As more good news gets out about the successes of the Affordable Care Act, Republicans might find it increasingly difficult to continue with their false attacks, as Rick Scott has learned:

Gov. Rick Scott visited a senior center Tuesday to warn about cuts he said Obamacare is forcing in a popular version of the Medicare health program and to collect their horror stories.

What he found was a satisfied group with few complaints.

The 20 seniors assembled for a roundtable with Scott at the Volen Center were largely content with their Medicare coverage and didn’t have negative stories to recount.

And some praised Obamacare – a program that Scott frequently criticizes.

“I’m completely satisfied,” Harvey Eisen, 92, a West Boca resident, told Scott.

Eisen told the governor he wasn’t sure “if, as you say,” there are Obamacare-inspired cuts to Medicare. But even if there are, that would be OK. “I can’t expect that me as a senior citizen are going to get preferential treatment when other programs are also being cut.”

Ruthlyn Rubin, 66, of Boca Raton, told the governor that people who are too young for Medicare need the health coverage they get from Obamacare. If young people don’t have insurance, she said, everyone else ends up paying for their care when they get sick or injured and end up in the hospital.

Eventually, Rubin said, Obamacare will become more popular. “People were appalled at Social Security.  They were appalled at Medicare when it came out. I think these major changes take some people aback. But I think we have to be careful not to just rely on the fact that we’re seniors and have an entitlement to certain things,” she said.

Republican scare stories about Medicare should become less effective as seniors find that the Republican claims are false and that in reality Obama has increased, and not reduced, benefits for Medicare recipients.

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