The biggest problem Democrats have had in selling the Affordable Care Act is about to become its greatest strength.
Approximately 85% of American adults are insured through their employer or the government. The vast majority of the insured will barely notice when Obamacare goes into effect in January of 2014.
That doesn’t mean they won’t benefit from the law.
Obamacare makes it so their insurance companies can’t cap their lifetime coverage or rescind their plan when they get sick. The currently insured are already getting free preventative care that to the ACA, and insurance companies, for the first time, have to prove that they are spending 80-85% of what they charge customers is spent on actual medical care.
Of course, this won’t stop Republicans from blaming every rate increase, slow elevator and grumpy doctor on the president’s signature legislative achievement — even though the growth of health care costs continues to slow.
Obamacare is primarily designed to help the 15% of America that isn’t currently insured — the people we pay for when they show up in the emergency rooms at the worst possible moments.
I was briefly part of that 15% when I found myself denied by my old insurer for a pre-existing condition that they knew about because it was my old insurer. I’ve never gotten over the feeling that I should avoid going to the doctor and when I get there, I can’t help but feel I still should hold back information that might be relevant to my care. I’ve never felt less free than when I think these thoughts. And for those who earn less and have a family to support, the feeling must be infinitely worse.
For the uninsured, entrepreneurs and those chained to a job for insurance, the ACA frees us to seek better opportunities and the best care available without the fear of going broke if we have to see a doctor.
Of course, Republicans still have a huge advantages in their propaganda war against the Obamacare. Not only do they have former vice-presidential candidates willing to lie about the law using the scariest words possible, they get to compare the costs regulated, guaranteed plans offered in the Obamacare marketplaces to the sh*tty insurance many of us have today.
That’s why even when we get great news about the rates being offered in California’s exchange, Republicans can offer distorted examples to make it seem as if the costs of insurance are skyrocketing.
So here are 5 things you need to know and tell everyone you know about Obamacare rates:
1. Everyone earning up to $45,960 for an individual or $94,200 for a family of four will get subsidies to help them pay for their health care.
Hopefully you’re in the 62% of Americans who are aware that this help is coming for those who need it their most, guaranteeing you will not pay more than 9.5% of your family’s income on health insurance. Figure out what you’ll be paying here.
2. For the first time, insurers can’t turn you down.
This makes it impossible to compare today’s rates to next year’s rates when people with pre-existing conditions must be offered comprehensive coverage. It’s not just comparing apples to oranges, says The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, “It’s comparing apples to oranges that the fruit guy may not even let you buy.”
3. For the first time, the coverage insurers offer will have to meet actual standards.
The New Republic‘s Jonathan Cohn explains:
Next year, when you go to buy coverage in an Obamacare exchange, you will know that your plan will include a set of “essential health benefits.” You’ll have a choice over how much financial protection you want: You can go for a “bronze” plan, which will have high co-payments and deductibles, or you can pay more to get a “silver,” “gold,” or “platinum” plan that would leave you paying less out of pocket once you get care. But even if you opt for a bronze plan, the law will limit what you pay in out-of-pocket expenses to $6,350 for an individual. Your exposure will be lower if, because of your low income, you qualify for additional financial protection from the government.
4. The poorest will still be covered under Medicaid, which should be expanding.
Obamacare was designed to cover everyone earning 133 percent or below the poverty level with fully-subsidized Medicaid. More than two dozen Republican-led states are turning this nearly federally funded expansion down, even though their residents will still be paying for it. Only Arizona’s Jan Brewer has overcome her state’s Republican Party to implement expansion — though we are close in Michigan. Remember: It took until the early 1980s until all states accepted basic Medicaid so this fight isn’t over.
5. We already pay for each other’s insurance in the dumbest way possible.
Thanks to a 1986 law signed by Ronald Reagan, the costs of the uninsured already factored into your coverage. Republicans are preventing this law from covering as many people as it could — because of this at least 19,000 Americans could die each year. But the fact that several million more Americans will have coverage next year is the beginning of an experiment that we know works. Just about every other industrialized country in the world covers all of their citizens and they all pay less for care.