Lies and more lies. That's about all Republicans have been contributing to health policy discussions ever since the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, became the law of the land.
Sure, the rollout of web sites where people can sign up for policies on the new health insurance exchanges has been rocky (to say the least). Criticisms are justified on this front.
I can't understand how Oregon, which received lots of federal dollars to get Cover Oregon up and running, still has an unusable web site after a full month of non-operation. Embarassing. Disturbing. But in no way a fatal blow to my state's Affordable Care Act participation.
Oregon has reduced the number of people without health insurance by over 10% in just two weeks through Obamacare's expansion of Medicaid eligiblilty.
Though Oregon's health insurance exchange is not yet up and running, the number of uninsured is already dropping thanks to new fast-track enrollment for the Oregon Health Plan.
The low-income, Medicaid-funded program has already signed up 56,000 new people, cutting the state's number of uninsured by 10 percent, according to Oregon Health Authority officials.
And people such as my wife, who was told by Regence of Oregon that her private insurance policy was being cancelled, have been able to choose a replacement Cover Oregon plan by using a broker/navigator.
Like I said in "Cover Oregon worked for us -- much better than Regence," Regence Blue Cross of Oregon used to cancel our policies every few years, or even more often. We'd be forced to switch to a different plan with higher costs and fewer benefits.
With no ability to shop around, because of our pre-existing conditions. We were stuck with whatever Regence made us accept.
So the GOP hue and cry over some individual policyholders needing to move to another health insurance plan strikes my wife and I as horribly misguided. We were happy to have Regence cancel my wife's policy because it didn't comply with Affordable Care Act standards.
Now she'll be getting much better benefits for her premium payment.
Before, we had a very high deductible with crappy prescription drug coverage. Her Regence premium was less than the LIfewise plan she signed up for via Cover Oregon, but overall we paid much more each year for her health care than will be the case now that the Affordable Care Act is in effect.
This graph shows the Obamacare winners and losers (click to enlarge).
I suppose we are in the tiny "3% potential losers" red slice, because my wife had to move to a more expensive health insurance plan with much better benefits. But as noted above we really didn't lose anything, since overall almost certainly we will be spending less out of pocket on health care.
The big 80% blue slice represents the people who are unaffected by Obamacare. And the 14% green slice is the Big Winners -- those currently uninsured who gain access to an affordable policy.
Anyone who understands this big picture, which should include all of the GOP politicians wailing about the few people who are going to have to pay more to get the better benefits that they should have been getting all along, should realize that Obamacare is benefitting hugely more than it is hurting.
In fact, arguably Obamacare isn't hurting anybody. Because everybody should have good health insurance, even young healthy people who wrongly believe they won't ever need it.
Sure, they'll have to pay more, since before they didn't have any health coverage at all. Similarly, the cost of buying a car went up a bit after air bags were required. Small price to pay for saving so many lives -- just as Obamacare will do.
Here's some thoughtful analyses that explain why cancelling some insurance policies because of Obamacare is a good thing:
"Rate Shock": The GOP's shameful new Obamacare lie
The disruption we’re seeing in the individual insurance market is mostly by design. And it’s mostly a good thing. Until October, the individual market existed to sell insurance to people who needed it least. Rates were low for healthy people precisely because their old, sick neighbors were priced or locked out of the system. They were also low because many of the policies on the market didn’t actually fulfill the function of insurance, which is to hedge against financial catastrophe.
The Uproar Over Insurance 'Cancellation' Letters
A true cancellation is when someone gets a letter saying that she’s losing her insurance and cannot renew. That was common practice in the individual market for people with expensive conditions. Under the new law, no one will ever get a letter like that again. They cannot be turned down for insurance.
The so-called cancellation letters waved around at yesterday’s hearing were simply notices that policies would have to be upgraded or changed. Some of those old policies were so full of holes that they didn’t include hospitalization, or maternity care, or coverage of other serious conditions.
Republicans were apparently furious that government would dare intrude on an insurance company’s freedom to offer a terrible product to desperate people.
Though some people might pay more than they did before, they and many others will also get more. Among other things, they will be less financially vulnerable when they get sick — in some cases dramatically less. Their new plans will also put taxpayers at less risk of having to cover big medical bills when under-insured patients unexpectedly fall very ill. That goes, too, for people who currently decline to buy insurance but who will have to next year.
Reform still might not sound like a great deal to people who are young, feel healthy and don’t want to pay for coverage . Yet having lots of healthy people paying into the new system on its terms will not only limit their financial risk, but also their participation will allow others who have been priced out of the health-insurance market — those with serious preexisting conditions, for example — to obtain good coverage. They deserve compassion, too.
None of this is an outrage. It’s the predictable result of a defensible policy choice embedded in the reform.