TBO.com: Tampa Bay Online, The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times - breaking news and weather.
Saturday, Nov 22, 2014
Commentary

Affordable Care Act: fact vs. fiction

Published:

My personal pet peeve, in the Florida Legislature and out, is the all-too-common dissemination of factually incorrect information. Although everyone is entitled to an opinion, everyone is not entitled to his own set of facts.

When I decided to battle my own leadership on numerous legislative issues, I was most frustrated that facts were replaced by manufactured talking points, as if facts don’t matter.

This is one of the most dangerous realities in politics today. The messenger becomes more important than the message. People will believe what and who they want to believe and pay scant attention to what is real, what is true, what can be proven.

Am I a fan of the new federal health care policy or a staunch opponent? Neither. I didn’t possess enough information to form an opinion. Having just spent a week in the hospital, I was worried about costs but grateful that I was able to keep my health insurance after leaving the Legislature.

In the Legislature I had very small co-payments for single coverage under the state policy. Upon leaving, I was able to keep the same coverage but at a monthly premium of nearly $600. I was relieved to have access to insurance despite the $7,200 annual cost.

Before doing any research, I came to these conclusions about the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare: President Obama and those supporting the law did a terrible job of explaining, defending or promoting it. Many Republicans and other opponents of the law were so determined to defeat it that they didn’t let facts get in the way. So both are at fault for where we are now.

Let’s start with the legalities of the health care law. It did pass both houses of Congress and was signed by the president of the United States. It is the law of the land. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality, becoming the third and final branch of government to confirm its legal status.

States can refuse federal funds to expand Medicaid, and some states with Republican governors, including Florida, have done so. The Republican-controlled U.S. House has voted more than 40 times to cut funding for Obamacare, but it has not voted on a plan to replace it. Ironically, the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank and leading opponent of the individual mandate, originally produced a white paper introducing and supporting a concept similar to the individual mandate that they now aggressively protest.

The health care act does mandate that all people carry health insurance or be fined. There are some exceptions, primarily for those under a certain income level who would now be eligible for Medicaid.

In addition to refusing federal funds for expanding Medicaid, Florida has chosen not to form its own exchanges, has punted on regulation of rates and, most recently, has directed the 60 local departments of health to prohibit outreach workers from assisting the uninsured in navigating the complex marketplace.

Three of the most repeated fallacies:

The president has excluded big businesses from the mandate. He has not excluded businesses but has delayed implementation of this and several other provisions.

You won’t be able to keep your doctor. Based on the plan you pick, you can choose to keep your current doctors.

Rates will go up. In the limited experience thus far, the opposite seems to be true.

Those who support the law highlight the benefits to consumers:

1. Insurance companies cannot deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

2. Young adults, up to the age of 26, may stay on their parents’ insurance plan.

3. Insurance companies cannot increase rates for no reason.

4. The state exchanges are intended to promote marketplace competition.

5. Seniors will get discounted prescriptions if they fall into the Medicare “doughnut hole.”

Those who oppose the law highlight the costs:

Businesses will have to provide health insurance. (Those with fewer than 50 employees will receive tax credits to help them pay for their employees’ health care.)

Individuals will be required to carry health insurance or pay a fine.

The reality: The president is not going to defund or repeal his signature health-care bill and has no motivation or appetite to deal with a hostile House that has used every means to wreak havoc on it.

Having taken the oath of office, men and women of good intention should offer the president their help explaining and implementing the plan in exchange for fixing its flaws and improving upon it in a meaningful manner. In this age of distrust and partisan rancor, I won’t hold my breath.

In the meantime, I urge Floridians to educate themselves on the law. A good impartial website belongs to the Kaiser Family Foundation: http:// kaiserfamilyfoundation.files .wordpress.com/2011/04/ 8061-021.pdf.

After Oct. 1, I plan to check out the health insurance marketplace at www.HealthCare.gov to see whether I can get better coverage at a lower price, the true intent of the law. I encourage you to do the same.

Paula Dockery is a syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland.

Subscribe to The Tampa Tribune

Comments