The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, arrived Oct. 1 with the opening of the official website, Connect for Health Colorado, www.connectforhealthco.com, the new one-stop health insurance marketplace for Colorado individuals, families and small employers. And as you know, the right-versus-left battle over Obamacare is why huge swaths of the federal government are now shuttered.
Naïve me, I thought we’d settled that fight. Congress passed it, the president signed it into law, and even the Supreme Court declared it constitutional.
Still, I was nervous at first about Obamacare, not because of government involvement, but because of the insurance companies. Remember the fear, uncertainty and doubt created when Sarah Palin and her fellow wingnuts told the “death panel” lie? In truth, prior to Obamacare, insurance companies have acted as death panels by denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and by placing caps on lifetime coverage, leaving the neediest helpless. Obamacare ends the practice of insurance companies’ cherry-picking customers.
However, lots of Coloradans remain nervous. USA Today polled our state about Obamacare: 52 percent disapprove, 33 percent approve and 14 percent are unsure.
Why? Because confusion is high here. In that same poll, only 55 percent understood that our state will have a health care exchange (we now do) and that lower-income Coloradans will be eligible for federal subsidies (they now will).
Fortunately, ignorance can be remedied, and with health care reform, greater awareness changes attitudes.
A Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows that once people understand Obamacare, they tend to like it.
Seventy-five percent of Americans, including more than two-thirds of Republicans, like that Obamacare lets young people stay on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26. Eighty-three percent of Americans agree that insurance companies should not deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, a key requirement of Obamacare. Seventy-six percent of Americans, including 61 percent of Republicans, like that Obamacare provides subsidies for lower-income families.
People get hung up on the mandates. Mandate is a creepy word, a little too Big Brother. The “individual mandate” requires people to have health insurance, and if not, they must pay penalties. Same for businesses with 50 employees or more.
But when you step back from it, such mandates represent the best part of Obamacare: fairness, a core American value.
If you choose to build your house downhill from an active volcano, it seems fair that you would pay more for homeowners insurance than someone who chooses to live in safer Fort Collins (wildfires and floods aside, but you get the point). But no one chooses to be born with spina bifida, carry a gene that predisposes cancer, or get T-boned cruising through an intersection. Yet all of us want to be healthy. All of us want financial help if we face a catastrophic illness. The key word: all.
For years, health care costs have exploded largely because some people have chosen to roll the dice, bypassing the system by refusing insurance and skipping preventive care, gambling they’ll remain healthy. Then, when the unexpected happens, they return to the system for help and find it in a hospital emergency room at top dollar, driving up costs for everyone.
No more, and that’s the beauty of the mandate: all contribute, all benefit.
The more you learn about the fairness, cost savings and advantages provided by the Affordable Care Act, the more you’ll like it.