It’s been a hell of a long time coming, but, on Tuesday of next week, uninsured Americans will finally have an opportunity to shop for health insurance coverage online, in government-administered marketplaces, as part of the Affordable Care Act. It took three and a half years, during which time the Republicans attempted to defund it 41 times, taking it all the way to the Supreme Court, but the health care legislation commonly referred to as Obamacare, is about to come into its own. (Components have been rolled out over the past few years, but it’s all been a prelude to what’s coming on October 1.) And, as you might expect, folks on the far right are going apoplectic. With their last, desperate attempt to defund the legislation having failed with yesterday’s ineffective filibuster initiated by Ted Cruz, it now seems as though they have no choice but to ramp up their disinformation campaign about how Obamacare will surely spell the end of freedom in America. (After quoting a tweet by Ashton Kutcher on the floor of the Senate, Cruz compared the passage of the Affordable Care Act to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler.)
Obama, perhaps a bit emboldened by Cruz’s failure to attract more than 18 Senators to his cause, has taken to the streets, attempting to drum up interest in these soon-to-be-rolled-out health care insurance exchanges. (For it to be successful, they need a lot of people, especially young people, signing up, and they’re ramping up the marketing accordingly.) “The closer we get, the more desperate they get,” Obama recently told a group in Maryland… And, here, with more on that speech, is a clip from the Associated Press.
…Obama didn’t call out any of his Republican opponents by name, but he laughingly taunted some of their arguments. He mentioned House Speaker John Boehner’s prediction right before the bill was signed into law in March 2010 that “Armageddon” was impending. He quoted Louisiana Rep. John Fleming, who said earlier this month that “Obamacare is the most dangerous piece of legislation ever passed in Congress.” He cited Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s appeal to colleagues on the House floor six months ago to “repeal this failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens.”
And he quoted New Hampshire state Rep. Bill O’Brien’s declaration in August that Obamacare is “a law as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.” That was met by a chorus of gasps and boos from the largely black audience.
“Think about that. Affordable Health Care is worse than a law that lets slave owners get their runaway slaves back,” Obama said. “I mean, these are quotes. I’m not making this stuff up.”
“All this would be funny if it wasn’t so crazy,” Obama said…
And, speaking of crazy, our own Kerry Bentivolio took enough time away from his investigation into the mind-controling properties of jet exhaust to send out an unsourced warning to his constituents, which you can see to the right. I ran it by our friend Michigan Representative Jeff Irwin, and he responded with the following: “Unfortunately, Congressman Bentivolio isn’t a trusted source, and his assertion is the opposite of every piece of data I’ve seen.” Furthermore, Irwin encouraged people who wanted the real facts to use the calculator on the Keiser Foundation’s site, where you can plug in a variety of variables and see how much health care will cost under the new system.
I just visited the Keiser site, as I was curious as to how a young person might fare. (Remember, Bentivolio said that a young male would be paying 52% more than he does today.) Here’s what I found.
My sample person is a 25 year old male in Ypsi, who makes $25,000, has no dependents, and doesn’t smoke.
And, here, according to the Kaiser calculator, is what this 25 year old male would likely pay. (On Tuesday, when the Michigan exchange goes live, you’ll be able to compare offers from a half dozen or so different insurers. According to Kaiser data, however, this should be in line with what you’ll find.)
So, depending on the level of coverage one chooses (some levels have higher deductibles than others), it could be as little as $990 a year, which, in my example, is just a little less than 4% of household income. (This takes into account a $773 federal subsidy. Those who make less per year, obviously, would have larger subsidies.)
It’s been a while since I was 25 and shopped for insurance, but I’d be surprised to find that coverage could be had for 52% of $990, which is what Bentivolio stated above… Which brings me to an interesting question.
Is it legal for our elected officials to send politically motivated, completely unsubstantiated bullshit out to their constituents as facts?
Speaking of the “facts” as they concern Obamacare, I should add that Jeff Irwin will be participating in a town hall meeting about the rollout of Michigan’s health insurance exchange on Monday evening (September 30), along with the Director of U-M’s Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation (CHRT) Marianne Udow-Phillips, and the Executive Director of the Washtenaw Health Plan Ellen Rabinowitz. The meeting, which is to be held at the Mallett’s Creek Library (3090 East Eisenhower Parkway), will begin at 6:00.
Assuming some of you out there reading this are among the 50 million uninsured Americans (nearly 1.2 million of whom live in Michigan), I have a few more links and resources to share.
Second, I’d suggest checking out the Washtenaw Health Plan. They’ve got good information online, but, more importantly, they’ve got an office at 555 Towner Street, in Ypsi, where they’ll be helping county residents to sign up in person. You just need to bring the required paperwork (which is outlined on their website), and show up Monday through Friday, from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, at their office.
Third, there are some good videos available online, which explain the ins and outs of the new system. The Keiser Foundation has one, as does the Washington Post. Here, for those of you who are interested, is the one from the Washington Post.
Fourth, the New York Times just posted an incredibly useful Q&A on these health insurance marketplaces. Here’s a taste…
Q: What are the penalties for not having coverage? Are there any exceptions?
A: Most people will be required to have insurance, with some exceptions. You are not required to buy insurance if: the cost of insurance premiums would exceed 8 percent of your income, your income is below the threshold for filing taxes, you have a certified hardship, or you would have qualified for Medicaid but live in a state that did not expand the program. Illegal immigrants, the incarcerated, members of Indian tribes and those who qualify for certain religious reasons are also exempt… Everyone else will pay a penalty. In 2014, it will cost you $95 or approximately 1 percent of your income, whichever is greater. The penalties will rise each year.
Fifth, check out the Keiser Foundaton calculator that I told you about above, so you can find out what kind of subsidy you might expect, how much you’d likely have to pay for coverage, and the likely size of your deductible.
Lastly, I just want to say how happy I am for all of you who, perhaps for the first time in your adult lives, will have insurance. This new system clearly isn’t perfect. You’ll still be expected to pay a great deal out-of-pocket when costly procedures and the like are called for, but those costs are capped, and, one would hope, this is just the first step on the path toward a much more efficient single-payer system. I know it’s confusing, even without all of the misinformation out there, but I’d encourage you to do some research and see what your options are.
And, to those who would say that this legislation wasn’t necessary, I’d remind you that more than 500,000 people in Michigan alone lost their private health insurance between 2008 and 2011, as more and more employers stopped offering coverage. The truth was, prior to Obamacare, insurance was becoming more difficult to come by, people were being dropped from their policies at the first sign of serious illness, and, as a result, our emergency rooms were being overrun, costing taxpayers a fortune. It was untenable. And everyone knew it. Unfortunately, politics got involved in what should have been a relatively simple matter. (Obamacare, contrary to what you might have heard, didn’t have its roots in socialist theory, but in a conservative think tank.) But conservatives decided to come out in force against it, as they did with every legislative initiative to come out of the White House under Obama, and it’s going to be their undoing. I’ve said it before, but they’ll rue the day when they decided to call this legislation “Obamacare,” instead of sharing credit for it. People are going to like it. Guess what? People like being able to get insurance when they have pre-existing conditions. They like being able to keep their kids on their insurance until they’re 26. And they like knowing that they can’t be dropped from their insurance when they’re diagnosed with cancer. These are good things. And they’ll forever be associated with Obama. Yes, it sucks to be told that you need to purchase insurance, but it also sucks to have to pay taxes, register for the draft, and do any number of things we’re expected to do as members of this society. Is this perfect? No. But it’s a hell of a lot better than what we had before.
And, with that, I’ll leave you with this quote from Obama… “The Republican party has just spun itself up around this issue… And the fact is the Republicans’ biggest fear at this point is not that Affordable Care Act will fail. What they’re worried about is it’s going to succeed.”