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Posted November 18, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Commentary: Let's give Affordable Health Care Act a chance to work

By Martin Lawson

In the matter of the Affordable Health Care Act, I urge levelheadedness, a wait-and see attitude, and most of all a bit of critical thinking when it comes to all the charges flying about.

• "There are mass cancellations." For about 95-97 per cent of policy holders there is no cancellation. This affects those with Individual policies, not those with group policies, which constitute the vast majority of policy holders. Even Fox News has reported this figure, and noted that those with individual policies are overwhelmingly small business owners - the precise people who have been the loudest and most strident anti-administration voices from the get-go.

• "We loved our policies." This is as novel as it is laughable. Those who follow social media, online blogs and news site are well aware that this assertion has appeared out of nowhere in the past two weeks or so. It has been so sudden and so repeated, it must be some talking point put out by those trying to influence public opinion. For decades, virtually everyone has complained about their health care, from rising costs, choice of doctors, deductibles, denials, dropped coverage, lifetime caps, etc. Polls of both parties have long said the health care system was broken. Now, we are supposed to believe everyone loved their old policies?

• "My rates have skyrocketed." For every story about increased rates, there are stories about people getting better deals. National Public Radio reported on a couple in their fifties who were self insured and paying $1,900 a month. With their pre-existing conditions, they were unable to switch. Using the health exchange, they were, according to the wife, able to get the same coverages with their same carrier for a bit over $800 a month. Moreover, in areas where there are more carriers in the exchanges, there will be more competition in pricing. Some will go up, some will go down.

• "Obama lied." In hindsight, the president should most definitely have said "for vast majority..." but with 95-97 percent not facing cancellations, this is closer to a rounding error than any fundamental misrepresentation. Note, too, it is the insurance carriers who have canceled plans. There is no provision in the Affordable Care Act that cancels plans. Likewise, there is no requirement that people drop their plans and use the exchanges. It is human nature and Politics 101 to overplay errors by our opponents.

• "This is socialism." If so, it is an odd kind of socialism. Private carriers still exist, they are still writing group policies, and they are competing against each other in the new exchanges for individual policies. More people than ever before will be customers.

• "There is no choice." Don't blame the health care law. Those with group policies have never had much choice; the employer chooses the plan and coverage. Case closed. Those using the exchanges will have more choice, not less. They can choose from up to five levels levels of coverages and deductibles (We in the valley have four levels).

As citizens, we deserve better from our politicians than a series of breathless charges and hearings. And we need politicians to stop trying to torpedo the health care law before it gets out of the gate. Lacking the votes to prevent passage, lacking a veto-proof majority, failing 40 times to vote this down, the political opposition needs at some point to stand down. There is such a thing as being gracious in defeat.

Give the law a chance. If it is as bad as claimed, it will be voted down as more politicians are elected.. That's the beauty of our system. It may be slow, but it is self correcting. After-the-fact attempts at nullification are undemocratic. Let the system work.

I would also like to see less he said/she said reporting in the media and more detailed analysis. I would like those who formerly supported the individual mandate and cautioned against "moral hazard" to explain their change of heart after the president embraced these ideas. I have had my fill, too, of hypocritical Libertarian mouthpieces who want less government while cashing monthly military pensions.

For now, let's see if extending coverage to those who could not buy insurance at any price, if helping the poor with tax credits afford insurance and thus avoid the tax-payer drain of emergency room visits, if expanding coverage to include routine care and services will lower chronic illness and overall costs ... let's see if these reforms will make things better.

Martin Lawson is a Fort Valley resident.


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