Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Why my neighbor (and yours) has doubts on ObamaCare

By Commissioner Olivia Rubio

“Will this Obama Care work?”

My neighbor’s question was mixed with confusion, apprehension and more than a little bit of discomfort. I could hardly blame her—after all, the Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress and signed into law in 2010, has been derided as “Obamacare” almost non-stop by partisan Republicans and late-night comedians since its inception. This is sad and unfortunate, because this trivializing sobriquet does little to inform the public about the many benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

As Commissioner of the Board of Neighborhoods Commission, I have a duty to serve the City of Los Angeles (and especially my neighbor). This includes duly and clearly informing them as to the services and benefits the government has to provide. To call the ACA “Obamacare” is a disservice to the public that it intends to help, because the nickname stigmatizes a program that ensures that all Americans have access to affordable and quality healthcare. I have a grave concern that my neighbor is only one of many to be frightened and intimidated by the misinformation that has been spread. I want to help people learn of the positive aspects of the new law and have a better understanding of the ACA.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has demonstrated his support for the ACA emphasizing that “What’s important is that… 5 million Californians don’t have health insurance and that only changes one application at a time.” Mayor Garcetti describes the passing ACA as a great start, but enrolling people is the real goal. As vitally important as enrollment is for the people of Los Angeles, the State of California and the nation, the fog of misinformation surrounding the ACA may cause many people, such as my neighbor, to hesitate or even forgo insurance coverage for themselves in these times when affordable health care is sorely needed.

The ACA was passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010 to increase the number of Americans covered by health insurance. As of January 2014, the underinsured and uninsured will have access to health insurance through state health insurance exchanges, also known as marketplaces.

Recognizing the Misinformation

There has been a great deal of noise around the ACA intended to distract us from the truth. This noise is not only patently false, but has also been deliberately intended to shock, mislead and scare people like my neighbor away from learning more about the ACA. To help filter out the noise, I checked PolitiFact, a project operated by the Tampa Bay Times that fact-checks statements made by Congress, the White House, lobbyists and interest groups. 

Here is what they found regarding the uglier allegations made against the ACA:
• The health care law has "death panels."
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin made this claim in a message posted on Facebook August 7, 2009. PolitiFact found this claim to be 2009’s “Lie of the Year”. The talking point started in reaction to an idea for Medicare, that the program should cover doctor appointments for seniors who wanted to discuss do-not-resuscitate orders, end-of-life directives and living wills. The visits would have been completely optional and only for people who wanted the appointments.

• The health care law is a "government takeover" of health care.
Florida Republican C.W. Bill Young, made this claim in February, 2010, in a speech to Pinellas County Republicans. A "government takeover" conjures a European approach where the government owns the hospitals and the doctors are public employees. The law Congress passed, however, relies largely on the free market. ACA, at its heart, is a system that relies on private companies as well as the free market. Most Americans will continue to get coverage from private insurers. PolitiFact rated this claim “Pants on Fire”.

• 75 percent of small businesses now say they are going to be forced to either fire workers or cut their hours.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida cited this on July 25, 2013, on FoxNews.com. In fact, most small businesses — those with fewer than 50 employees — do not have to provide health insurance to their employees. (and some businesses with fewer than 25 employees may qualify for tax credits under the law.) PolitiFact again rated this claim “Pants on Fire”.

• All non-U.S. citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free health care services.
A chain email circulated July 28, 2009 is another instance of “Pants on Fire.” The Affordable Care Act does not provide free health care to anyone, and especially not to people in the United States illegally.

• At age 76 when you most need it, you are not eligible for cancer treatment.
Another chain email, circulated June 3, 2013, took aim at seniors on Medicare to frighten them away from an important benefit of ACA. The law largely leaves the Medicare program alone, and makes absolutely no changes to patient benefits in Medicare. This particular claim, that older cancer patients will go without treatment, is wrong on several levels. Pants on Fire.

These are just some of the outrageously misleading statements that I’m sure my neighbor has been subject to. Again, I totally understand her trepidation—it’s hard to discern the facts of any issue when one is bombarded constantly by the wrong information.

Knowing the Benefits

Being aware of the negative propaganda is only half the battle. It is just as important to be aware of the potential and very real benefits one stands to gain under the Affordable Care Act.

First, and most important:

• Being sick doesn't keep you from getting coverage.
Being sick won't keep you from getting health coverage. An insurance company can't turn you down or charge you more because of your condition. Once you have insurance, the plan can't refuse to cover treatment for pre-existing conditions. Coverage for your pre-existing conditions begins immediately. This is true even if you have been turned down or refused coverage due to a pre-existing condition in the past. (www.healthcare.gov)

• Extending Coverage for Young Adults.
Under the law, young adults will be allowed to stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26 years old (in the case of existing group health plans, this right does not apply if the young adult is offered insurance at work). Check with your insurance company or employer to see if you qualify. Effective for health plan years beginning on or after September 23. (www.hhs.gov)

• Providing Small Business Health Insurance Tax Credits.
Up to 4 million small businesses are eligible for tax credits to help them provide insurance benefits to their workers. The first phase of this provision provides a credit worth up to 35% of the employer’s contribution to the employees’ health insurance. Small non-profit organizations may receive up to a 25% credit. (www.hhs.gov)

• An End to Gender Discrimination in Coverage.
Nearly 9 million women will gain coverage for maternity insurance; individual insurance companies will no longer be allowed to charge higher rates for women simply because of our gender; almost 19 million uninsured women will have access to affordable health care plans; young adults can stop foregoing treatment as health care coverage becomes affordable; and preventative health care will become a reality for Americans.

• Economic Peace of Mind.
Caps on yearly out-of-pocket medical expenses will mean people shouldn't have to worry about bankruptcy after treatment for a catastrophic illness or injury. And all new insurance policies must offer a minimum level of essential benefits, ranging from emergency room treatment to maternity care. (www.newser.com – January 2, 2014)

So when my neighbor asks "Will this Obama Care work?", my response to her is a reassuring "yes", and I take an extra moment to go over the features and benefits of the Affordable Care Act.

In any endeavor where one’s future and well-being are affected, it’s vital that facts and an honest dialogue and debate are entered into in order to make the best decision for that future. When one side of the argument is laced with untruths and misdirection, the effort to make a decision with our best selves is made more difficult, but not impossible. It’s up to all of us to insist on honest dialogue for this and all other important issues in our lives.

Tell your neighbor.


Anonymous said...

Conservatives have been saying OCare is a trainwreck since it's inception. Why has it taken so long for liberals to realize your anointed one is a pompous fraud.

Anonymous said...

Tell me who is going to pay for all this "FREE" health care???