Hundreds of millions being spent to confuse folks on Obamacare

Hundreds of millions being spent to confuse folks on Obamacare

September 14th, 2013 in Opinion Times

It's too bad the Affordable Care Act wasn't dubbed Romneycare - after the Republican who actually pioneered it in Massachusetts. Romney's program was in fact the model that President Obama used to create what is now known as Obamacare.

Perhaps if the nation, and especially Congress and the many GOP governors around the country, knew the program as Romneycare, they wouldn't be throwing up so many obstacles to a law aimed at making sure all Americans have health insurance that can't dump them when they get sick.

Alas, it's a Democratic president's program, and it is being held hostage by an obstructionist Congress and lots of state GOP politicians who are busily writing unnecessary rules to stop education and sign-up processes at the 11th hour before it takes full effect Oct. 1.

Tennessee's Republican governor, Bill Haslam, turned down millions in federal dollars to expand the state's Medicaid program; now he's pushing last-minute "emergency rules" for certified application counselors known as "navigators." Those navigators must go through a state Commerce and Insurance Department registration process that will include a criminal background check and a $35 fee before they can help clients.

State Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, called the new requirements what they are: "obstructionist."

Tennessee is not alone. In fact, we're not even on the list of states with the most red tape.

Unfortunately all the headlines about states suing and the U.S. House of Representatives voting 40 times to repeal the law have helped the GOP confuse the public about the virtues of Obamacare.

It is law, and some aspects of it already in effect have benefited more than 100 million Americans.

• Obamacare does not replace private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. It is for uninsured people - not already insured people.

• Obamacare does make sure folks who have coverage aren't dropped by insurance companies if they get sick. It eliminates coverage exceptions for pre-existing conditions that big insurance companies have used for decades to help rake in some of the world's largest profits.

• Obamacare requires insurance plans to spend at least 80 to 85 percent of your individual premiums directly on clinical services and improving the quality of health care, forcing insurers to spend most of your dollars on actual health care. What a concept. It also allows an estimated 3.1 million young Americans who would have lacked health coverage to remain on their parents' health insurance up to age 26.

Some insurance companies don't like it. They will lose some profits. Remember the "rate shock" stories that were all the rage several months ago, like one from Forbes in December: "Aetna CEO (Mark) Bertolini: Get ready for 'Rate Shock' as Some Insurance Premiums to Double in 2014."

That one got Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., going enough to sent out a House Energy and Commerce Committee press release titled "Obamacare Oversight: The Looming Premium Rate Shock."

In fact in many states, premium rates quoted by the new health-care exchanges have actually come in lower than expected.

So the bottom line is that the GOP and its profit-gobbling backers of all stripes have spent more than $400 million to turn Americans against Obamacare, according to an analysis earlier this summer by the Campaign Media Analysis Group at Kantar Media. That compares to just $75 million spent by supporters to defend and explain the legislation.

The three highest spending advertisers against the Affordable Care Act through May 21 were Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to Kantar research.

The group estimated that more than $1 billion eventually would be spent to sway public opinion and swing political races tied to the issue.

That certainly would have bought a lot of insurance coverage.