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Posted by on May 1, 2014 in Health | 33 comments

More Good News On Health Care Reform

With Republicans constantly putting out false ads and other misinformation regarding the effects of the Affordable Care Act, it is worthwhile to periodically look at the real news. As Politico points out, millions more people now have health care coverage:

A panel of health insurers agreed Tuesday that the number of insured people in the country has climbed by millions, despite arguments by some Republicans that the insured population has declined because of canceled plans.

“I don’t doubt that,” said Jay Gellert, president and CEO of the California-based Health Net, when asked whether there’s any real question that the nation’s insured population has grown.

Gellert spoke at a POLITICO Pro Health Care Breakfast Briefing with Karen Ignagni, CEO of the trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans, and James Roosevelt, president and CEO of the Massachusetts-based Tufts Health Plan.

Ignagni said that the rush of sign-ups late in the Affordable Care Act’s first enrollment period – which ended March 31 – were significantly younger than the earliest enrollees.

Some of those who initially opposed Obamacare are now benefiting from it:

Dean Angstadt fells trees for a living.

He’s a self-employed, self-sufficient logger who has cleared his own path for most of his 57 years, never expecting help from anyone. And even though he’d been uninsured since 2009, he especially wanted nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act.

“I don’t read what the Democrats have to say about it because I think they’re full of it,” he told his friend Bob Leinhauser, who suggested he sign up.

That refrain changed this year when a faulty aortic valve almost felled Angstadt. Suddenly, he was facing a choice: Buy a health plan, through a law he despised, that would pay the lion’s share of the cost of the life-saving surgery – or die. He chose the former.

“A lot of people I talk to are so misinformed about the ACA,” Angstadt said. “I was, before Bob went through all this for me. I would recommend it to anybody and, in fact, have encouraged friends, including the one guy who hauls my logs.”

Later in the report:

Angstadt faces a long recovery, but his conversion to ACA supporter is done. The political storm around the ACA, he said, is the political parties “fighting each other over things that can benefit people.”

“For me, this isn’t about politics,” he added. “I’m trying to help other people who are like me, stubborn and bullheaded, who refused to even look. From my own experience, the ACA is everything it’s supposed to be and, in fact, better than it’s made out to be.”

This example is of a person who had been uninsured because of being self-employed. One benefit of the Affordable Care Act, often distorted by conservatives, has been to get people out of the “insurance trap” where they had to work for large companies in order to obtain coverage. This means more people can start their own businesses or retire early:

Until recently, Mike Smith, 64, worked 11 hours a day, Monday through Friday and then half a day on Saturday, as a district manager for a national auto parts chain — a schedule he’s kept for nearly 40 years. Early retirement, while certainly appealing, wasn’t a viable option for him because both he and his already-retired wife, Laura, also 64, relied heavily on his job-provided health insurance.

“At our age, with some preexisting medical conditions, it would have been very costly to buy insurance on the open market – about $3,000 a month,” he says.

But the Affordable Care Act changed that. The federal health law bars insurance companies from charging higher premiums to those with preexisting conditions, so the Smiths have been able to find a plan they can afford. The couple pays $200 a month for a subsidized health insurance policy they bought through California’s state-run marketplace, Covered California.

And that’s brought a big change to Smith’s household: He’s joined Laura in early retirement. That means more time for him to help Laura care for his elderly in-laws as well as more down time to pursue some budding passions, namely playing his guitar and cooking new recipes.

But early retirees aren’t the only people benefitting from the federal health law.

A recent study by Georgetown University and the Urban Institute predicts the ACA will enable up to 1.5 million Americans to leave unfulfilling jobs and become self-employed or start new businesses. It’s a finding that runs counter to forecasts by ACA critics, who contend the federal health law will cost the nation jobs and cripple America’s small business economy.

It will take years to know for certain how the health law will change the work landscape broadly, but already the law has changed life for Rebecca Murray.

Last year, the Chicago resident says, her husband — a freelance IT worker — was diagnosed with chronic spinal arthritis. He needed good health insurance, which he received through Murray’s job as a social worker for a dialysis corporation. But Murray didn’t like her job.

Murray and her husband are both 31, with a 20-month-old daughter and a second child on the way. Before the Affordable Care Act, they couldn’t get insurance on the individual market market because of his preexisting condition.

But under the federal health law, they now qualify for a subsidized policy that will cost $535 a month for the whole family. Not inexpensive by any means, she says, but it does allow her to quit her job and launch an online business to help young women, like her, take care of sick loved ones.

“It’s thrilling. It’s exciting. It’s kind of like taking a leap into the unknown, and I know it’s a big risk,” she says of her new venture. “But this really is allowing me to finally step into what I feel is truly satisfying for the soul,” she says, adding that just a year ago, “I was convinced I would be a renal social worker for the next 30-something years and just raise my kids and hope they could live out their dreams instead.”

As more good news gets out about the successes of the Affordable Care Act, Republicans might find it increasingly difficult to continue with their false attacks, as Rick Scott has learned:

Gov. Rick Scott visited a senior center Tuesday to warn about cuts he said Obamacare is forcing in a popular version of the Medicare health program and to collect their horror stories.

What he found was a satisfied group with few complaints.

The 20 seniors assembled for a roundtable with Scott at the Volen Center were largely content with their Medicare coverage and didn’t have negative stories to recount.

And some praised Obamacare – a program that Scott frequently criticizes.

“I’m completely satisfied,” Harvey Eisen, 92, a West Boca resident, told Scott.

Eisen told the governor he wasn’t sure “if, as you say,” there are Obamacare-inspired cuts to Medicare. But even if there are, that would be OK. “I can’t expect that me as a senior citizen are going to get preferential treatment when other programs are also being cut.”

Ruthlyn Rubin, 66, of Boca Raton, told the governor that people who are too young for Medicare need the health coverage they get from Obamacare. If young people don’t have insurance, she said, everyone else ends up paying for their care when they get sick or injured and end up in the hospital.

Eventually, Rubin said, Obamacare will become more popular. “People were appalled at Social Security. They were appalled at Medicare when it came out. I think these major changes take some people aback. But I think we have to be careful not to just rely on the fact that we’re seniors and have an entitlement to certain things,” she said.

Republican scare stories about Medicare should become less effective as seniors find that the Republican claims are false and that in reality Obama has increased, and not reduced, benefits for Medicare recipients.

Originally posted at Liberal Values

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  • slamfu

    That is good news. I hope it builds enough momentum and success that the GOP gets its ass handed to it in November.

  • My Medicare Advantage plan has not changed significantly for me although I don’t have any way of knowing if it has for you as a physician. The Republican scare tactics are being demonstrated as pure unadulterated BS. We see it here in Oregon where the Republican running against our progressive Senator Merekly , who happens to be a doctor, is spouting lies about the ACA. Here in Oregon I don’t think she has one chance in hell of defeating the incumbent,

  • The only differences from my perspective are the increased services which are covered. That doesn’t keep the Republicans from lying.

    The latest is that now the Republicans running a House committee have sent out a bogus report claiming only around 2/3 of people are paying their premiums on their insurance when the actual numbers reported by insurance companies are over 90%. It looks like they are basing this on people who had not paid for insurance before they were ever billed for it. No surprise–most people will not pay a bill before they receive it.

  • sheknows

    So ok, here’s the latest out of Nebraska. Newest tac…Per Ben Sasse running for senate ” I have read all 2300 pages of Obamacare…and it’s worse than you thought.”
    From some other weird guy I never heard of until yesterday ( there are currently 8 people I think that crawled out from the rocks to run Republican for Senate)…” HI, my dad really, really hates Obamacare and he says it is going to harm Nebraska. ” Second child at the table ” he says he will do everything in his power to repeal it and keep Nebraskans safe”.

    A third talks about the evils of government overreach and sites examples that flash on the screen….” School lunches standardized”…Farm dust levels must be regulated”…’Obamacare costs taxpayers money” and vows to stop government from taking away our freedoms. I think that one is Dinsdale. I seriously doubt that Sasse has read the ACA.
    I have a background in both medicine and health insurance and I have it on my computer in PDF. I have read a lot of things in it and let me tell you…it is slow slogging through it.
    He is lying of course but I mention this because this is the new assault. ” I have read it…and it is terrible, horrible whatever…you fill in the blanks.” No one can dispute they read it because no one has actually read all of it themselves.
    Just an FYI I guess.

  • sheknows

    Oh wait…I forgot the best part with the kids at the table. Then they say ” “My whole family prays each night for my dads opponents”.

    SO sad, These poor kids are maybe 8 and 10 respectively. They never had a chance in life!

  • I wouldn’t bother disputing whether he read it. I’d dispute his opinion of it, whether he read it or not. The only freedom which he wants to protect is the freedom of insurance companies to rip off policy holders.

  • sheknows

    LOL Ron, true enough. The danger this presents of course is that by claiming he has read it…as others will or have already done..he is telling the voters on a TV ad that he knows it’s a really, really bad thing.
    In other words …he is with one grand swipe of his hand…obliterating everything good we are hearing about ACA because he is telling people “There is more you don’t know”.

    Unless the Democrats can go on national TV and state some of the wonderful things contained in ACA, the public will once again hear “death panels”.
    We don’t need that going into 2014.
    I have written to the DNC and to the White House. Perhaps more people here would like to do that as well. Just a thought.

  • dduck

    Yes, Virginia, there are some outliers in politics as there are in every profession including that of medicine. Is this one?:
    “The IPAB (Independent Payment Advisory Board) is essentially a health-care rationing body. By setting doctor reimbursement rates for Medicare and determining which procedures and drugs will be covered and at what price, the IPAB will be able to stop certain treatments its members do not favor by simply setting rates to levels where no doctor or hospital will perform them.”

  • There are a lot of fictions being spread by Republicans. In reality neither death panels or the IPAB by the above description actually exist.

  • Actually the IPAB is one aspect of the ACA where I would make some changes if I could, but the Republicans greatly overplay their hand on that one with gross exaggerations of the potential problems.

  • dduck

    Whoops, that quote is not from a lying republican. It is from Howard Dean, doctor and former head of the Dem party.

    Probably taken out of context or maybe someone forced him to lie.

  • Howard Dean received a lot of criticism for this line. He is now working as a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry, presenting their views.

    Facts are facts and misinformation is misinformation regardless of source.

  • It is rather sad that a job on K Street can get a former head of the Democratic Party to recite Republican talking points. That said, I’m not entirely surprised about Dean. I initially supported him for the Democratic nomination in 2004 until I found that he was lying about his previous position and previous policies regarding Medicare. I switched my support to Kerry at the time.

    There has also been a poor relationship between Dean and the Obama White House, which might have a bearing on his change in loyalties.

  • slamfu

    I’m not sure what the concern is over the IPAB. They are the body that negotiates prices and services for Medicare, and any system that provides payment for services is going to have such a body. The IPAB is the govt one for Medicare expenses, but every insurance company has a similar in house body that performs the exact same function.

    I think what you said was that the IPAB would simply price certain services such that it would limit the number of options to get them at that price, but that is just the typical assumption that govt is going to screw thing up and would represent a failure in negotations. Private firms do exactly that same thing, and far more ruthlessly.

  • The IPAB kicks in if spending goals are exceeded. It doesn’t routinely negotiate prices. The idea is simply to have experts in the field make decisions as to how to reduce spending if needed. Republicans see this as a death panel, although the board is not currently even in existence.

    The idea is to take decisions on Medicare out of politics, which in principle is a good idea. However, I think that their recommendations should come to an up or down vote by Congress, sort of analogous to military commissions on base closings to reduce military spending. From reading blog posts about it, I think that a lot of supporters of the ACA are under the mistaken opinion that this is how it works. Actually it takes a 2/3 vote to override their recommendations, which I feel is too high.

    I also question the idea of automatically kicking in a mechanism to cut costs. With an aging population and increased technology, I think that any decisions as to how much to spend on Medicare should be made by a majority vote by Congress at the time, not by any previously devised formula. We already got into a lot of trouble with the Sustainable Growth Rate formula which made unrealistic assumptions about future Medicare spending .

    It is one thing to have some reservations about the IPAB and want to make some changes as I do. It is a totally different thing when Republicans call it a death panel and scream about rationing as if the idea is to reduce needed care.

  • dduck

    More, more good news: Like location, location, in the real estate business, in the medical business, it is access, access, access: Here is the problem: The health-care system can’t possibly deliver on the huge increase in demand for primary-care services. The original ObamaCare bill actually had a line item for increased doctor training. But this provision was zeroed out before passage, probably to keep down the cost of health reform. The result will be gridlock.

  • Linking to false Republican talking points from the opinion page of the Wall Street Journal is hardly meaningful or helpful.

  • Republicans should at least be more consistent in their claims. They are simultaneously denying the sign up numbers which show that the ACA was successful while also claiming that covering these additional people (who they deny exist) will lead to gridlock.

    Of course we now have plenty of experience over the past several months to tell us that right wing predictions are not worth listening to.

  • cincyindep

    A major reason many of us left the republican party displayed right here. It’s sickening that the Republican party is so set upon being anti-Obama that they are willing to risk peoples lives and benefits by misleading the public into thinking the ACA is 100% evil and bad. It has it’s flaws but the stories every day are compelling. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have to go to work while chronically ill for no reason other than they can’t afford health care insurance if they don’t work. The Republicans try to flip that into their retiring as a loss of jobs when in fact, it’s a CREATION of jobs as those jobs can then be filled by the unemployed.

    Extremism that leads to such gross lies is why so many have left the Republican party. I do hope that the Democrats embrace moderate views and ugly but true facts.

  • dduck

    Ooooh, the WSJ again. Let’s face the facts we can’t listen to any one except RC. Everyone else is a Rep talking point flunky or uses flawed data or bays at the moon. LMAO
    Of course, the primary physician provision was taken out of the original ACA bill by the Republicans?, who else, when they had a free moment cause they didn’t want to have too many doctors taking care of the ill.

  • dduck

    Many of us are NOT leaving the Rep party because you don’t give money to a drunken sailor (sorry guys, it’s an old saying)
    and ask him to be careful with it and stay out of trouble. Yes, that’s why someone needs to watch the chicken coop besides the foxy Dems.

  • dduck,

    I provide a large number of sources for what I write. I also use articles with data, not pure opinion pieces. The Wall Street Journal, since purchased by Murdoch is well known to be a mouthpiece for Republican talking points.

  • cincyindep,

    Freeing people of the “insurance trap” is certainly one of the benefits of the ACA, despite Republican attempts to distort this with claims it will lead to fewer people working. Besides allowing people to retire who are only working to obtain insurance coverage and reduce unemployment by freeing up these jobs, it should also help stimulate the economy by freeing up people to start their own businesses.

  • In looking at which sources to use, note whether they can back up what they say. The Wall Street Journal opinion piece says: “The original ObamaCare bill actually had a line item for increased doctor training. But this provision was zeroed out before passage, probably to keep down the cost of health reform. The result will be gridlock.”

    There are several problems in this claim. It makes no sense when it speaks of “the original ObamaCare bill.” There was no original bill than final bill. That’s not how legislation works. There were versions in the House and Senate and there were differences between the bills in committee and the full House but no “original ObamaCare bill.”

    Next problem: Try to follow the link in the article. It just goes to a list of articles with nothing to back this up.

    Another obvious problem is when it goes on to say “probably to keep down the cost.” Pure speculation based upon a faulty premise.

    Finally it gives its prediction, based upon its faulty premise and no evidence to back it up.

  • dduck

    The original ObamaCare bill actually had a line item for increased doctor training. But this provision was zeroed out before passage, probably to keep down the cost of health reform.” Please say that it’s a Rep lie, one more time or that stuff like this comes from Obama haters. Well, this is a FU hater. Obama is no worse than most politicians, white, black or green.

    No, doctors, no appointments, that sure will keep premiums down.

  • As it said it is a nonsensical statement from an opinion piece from a Republican source with nothing to substantiate it. There is zero evidence for “no doctors, no appointments.”

  • dduck

    What about nurses filling the primary doctor gap/ Won’t that work?
    Well, here is a “good”source, the NYT, but it may not be a writer who is qualified to compare medical policies or practices, and it is an opinion page article.

  • Actually it is an opinion page article which has no information of value. Still zero data to support the premise.

  • dduck

    So predictably consistent said the grasshopper to the ant.

  • The article is clearly labeled as opinion. It is one person’s opinion as to whether nurse practitioners should be able to practice without physician oversight. It has no bearing on your argument. It fails to provide evidence to support its premise, and even if it did, it is irrelevant to the question of whether people will be able to see doctors under the ACA. Use of nurse practitioners, under physician supervision, is just one way to allow doctors to handle more patients. This opinion article doesn’t even look at this issue.

  • dduck

    No opinion page, no WSJ source, just a fear mongering anecdotal story from the NYT. (Someone held a gun to their heads so they would all lie and spout Rep. talking points.)

  • SteveK

    From today’s (4/2/14) WaPo – Wonkblog: What we know from Obamacare’s first open enrollment period

    1. Top story: What we learned from the final report on the first Obamacare enrollment period

    States that didn’t set up marketplaces see surge in health plan enrollment, figures show. “A last-minute deluge of health insurance sign-ups came from states where political leaders have opposed the Obama administration’s health-care law, according to federal figures released Thursday. In March and April, the number of people enrolling in plans more than doubled in the 36 states that chose not to set up their own marketplaces….Most of these states deferred to the federal marketplace,….In Texas and Florida, which have fiercely resisted the Affordable Care Act, nearly 1 million people enrolled between March 1 and April 19. Similar increases took place in Georgia and North Carolina.” Sandhya Somashekhar and Dan Keating in The Washington Post.

    Primary source: The full text of the report.

  • dduck,

    First note that it is about what people fear–zero evidence of anything.

    Secondly, if we assume that the speculation is true, it is about a hospital which is trying to pressure an insurance company into paying more by threatening to stop accepting the insurance. This sort of thing has been happening for years. It means absolutely nothing negative about Obamacare.

    However, the Affordable Care Act does have requirements for insurance plans regarding maintaining a panel of physicians of an adequate size. This makes it harder for the insurance company to play hard ball and pay less, driving physicians away. Thanks to Obamacare, the patients have protections which they did not have before Obamacare.

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