Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

One year after ‘Obamacare’ passes, millions still waiting for help to arrive

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We recently reached the one-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), known derisively as Obamacare. But millions of Americans don’t feel like celebrating.

Oh, there are the teabaggers and the like, who vilify the contents as they are told what is in there, even if the list doesn’t match reality, and don’t realize the bill will actually help them.

No, we’re talking about people who like the idea of the bill, would love the act to be stronger, but most importantly, are waiting for the bill to impact their lives.

Those who lost their health insurance when they lost their job, lost their COBRA when their former employers went out of business, and can’t buy insurance no matter how badly they want it. These people are still waiting.

And they will have to keep waiting until 2013 or 2014. And maybe longer.

If there is a President Palin or Pawlenty in 2013, their version of HHS may not want to explain a bill that they hate, that is confusing to those who like it.

The perception in the news and elsewhere is that the ACA won’t kick in for most Americans until 2013 or 2014 for budgetary reasons. The nay-sayers noted that 10 years of funding for 7 years of coverage was designed to make the numbers look better.

Imagine my surprise at a recent panel discussion on the ACA when two HHS employees explained that the delay was caused by needing time to set up the new structure, including state exchanges.

What… the… ?

After catching my breath, I informed them that this was news to me and anybody else I knew. They were surprised that I was surprised. And if you were surprised, trust us, you’re not alone.

We heard a ton from the anti-reform group, but very little from the pro-reform element, especially within the Obama Administration.

Every Democratic politician who lost a race in 2010 should be furious that the ACA wasn’t explained better.

Even a political neophyte could see that health care reform had to be overexplained. Yet the Obama Administration went for the very underexplained option. Getting sympathetic voters to the polls in 2010 was rather difficult given that the anti-reform people knew what they hated, even if it hadn’t kicked in, and the pro-reform people weren’t told why they had to wait for the reform.

Imagine how many more Democratic politicians would have kept their job if more of their constituents were helped by the ACA in 2010.

Recent college graduates got their help, being able to stay on their parents insurance unless, of course, their parents lost their health insurance. And there are a few peripheral moves, but most people are still left in the dark.

Oh, there is a program to help those who haven’t been insured for at least 6 months; not clear if this is part of the ACA. But this does seem a slap in the face of those who bought insurance and played by the rules. They have to wait and wait and wait.

The two women at HHS wanted me to note that there is a Web site — healthcare.gov — that explains what is in the Affordable Care Act. Overall, there is a lot of information, but you have to know what you are looking for, something that isn’t helpful if you don’t know what might be coming, someday.

Even when the ACA is fully implemented, presuming that the policies will be funded and implemented, the United States will still have the worst health care system in the Western world. We still will have insurance companies decide who and how they get treated, people will still live in fear over health care. Heck, we finally set a mark that gives a floor for insurance companies to make a 20% profit (making them spend 80¢ on the dollar for medical expenses).

The truth is that we don’t need health insurance companies in the way that other countries do well without their powerful input. Their citizens get better health care for less money.

True, the ACA will make things better than they are now. But the Obama Administration and the HHS should know that “too little, too late” doesn’t even apply here, because most Americans haven’t even received “too little” and “too late” went away a long time ago.

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