The Train Wreck That Isn't
Obamacare isn't perfect and I don't hesitate to admit it. Recently, however, there has been a number of opponents referring to it as a "train wreck." They say it will put a government bureaucrat between you and your doctor, that it is driving health care costs up, and that people won't support it.
Fortunately, we need not fear Chicken Little's cries that the train is wrecking because all of these criticisms are just plain wrong. Let's look at the facts.
First, since the dawn of health insurance, insurers have been telling you which doctors you can see and for what ailments. Insurers, not the government, negotiate contracts with hospitals and physicians and create their own network of providers. If the doctor you want to see is not in that network, your insurer will cover little, if any, of the bill. This is the free market at work, no hospital or physician is required to accept a particular insurer, private or public, and no insurer is required to include a particular doctor. Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA), doesn't change any of this – networks will continue to be decided between insurers and providers. One thing the ACA does do is require that almost all Americans have some form of health insurance and is making subsidies, or discounts, available to most people to help pay for it. That's where the government involvement ends, however, so if your doctor isn't in your network, call your insurer.
Secondly, for all of the talk about the train wreck, lots of good news about the ACA has been coming out over the last few months, especially regarding cost. Rates that have been released across the country for plans that are going to be sold in the state Marketplaces, or health insurance exchanges, have continually been coming in under original projections. Although rates for West Virginia have yet to be released, there is good reason to suspect that they will be affordable for individuals and families, especially when considering the subsidies. Recent studies have also shown that the current rate of growth in health care costs is at its lowest since the 1960s, very good news for the future considering health care has grown to account for nearly 18 percent of every dollar spent, up from just 11 percent 20 years ago.
Finally, while public support has dropped to record lows when asked about "Obamacare," the individual provisions within the ACA remain very popular. A tracking poll (below) done by the Kaiser Family Foundation in March found that 81 percent of respondents support closing the Medicare doughnut hole, 80 percent support the creation of state health insurance exchanges, 76 percent support extending dependent coverage until age 26, 76 percent support providing subsidy assistance to low- and moderate-income households, and 66 percent support prohibiting insurance companies from turning someone away. This is strong evidence that opponents have been winning the vocal battle over Obamacare in the media while the actual response in Main Street households is overwhelmingly favorable.
It's worth considering what it means when opponents like Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. David McKinley vote for a full repeal of the law. Essentially, they are trying to overturn a law that prevents insurers from denying you coverage for a pre-existing health condition, allows your children to stay on your health plan, removes lifetime and annual maximums from your plan, sets limits on the amount that any individual or family has to pay out of pocket, provides help in purchasing if you can't find affordable coverage through your or your spouse's employer, and is being shown to help keep costs down.
So don't be fooled by those folks out there calling it a train wreck – chances are they actually don't even know what they're talking about.