Missing the point on Obamacare, plan does work


By Al Norman

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner recently made a big fuss about the fact that he could not sign up for health care on the Obamacare website.

“Like many Americans, my experience was pretty frustrating. After putting in my personal information, I received an error message. I was able to work past that, but when I went to actually sign up for coverage, I got this ‘internal server error’ screen … Despite multiple attempts, I was unable to get past that point and sign up for a health plan.”

alnorman_headshotA few hours later, the speaker restarted the process, and announced at 5:35 p.m. that “I just heard … that I have been successfully enrolled.”

So it’s a happy ending for the speaker — he got his health plan — but for a legion of other lawmakers at the national and state level, the whining continues that because the federal website has been difficult to use, the health care plans are bad for Americans.

These critics are confusing the product with the processing of the product. They are not the same thing. It would be like blaming author John Grisham because Amazon.com screwed up your book order.

The website is a delivery system only — it is not the health plan itself. Of course people who want to trash Barack Obama will not see the difference. But I don’t hear Obamacare critics ranting about the end of “pre-existing conditions” exclusions. I don’t hear people complaining about extending the coverage age for family dependents. I don’t hear people complaining about Medicare preventive exams, or the gradual closing of the Part D drug donut hole.

No, instead of health care issues, I hear pundits complaining about a website, asking for government officials to resign, for Obama to apologize, etc. Sure, the website was dysfunctional. Sure, we will spend too much money to fix it. But what has that got to do with the quality of the new health policies now for sale?

Most amazing of all are the policyholders who want to keep their substandard health plans — the ones with the cheap premiums and the $4,000 deductibles. Obamacare is cleaning up the health insurance marketplace and taking these low value plans out or circulation. But some Americans are pleading: “Give me back my cheap, worthless health plan.”

The way insurance works, the larger the risk pool, the less costly the policies. If a plan only enrolls sick people, the claims are more costly and the insurance company has to jack up its rates. If healthy people don’t buy insurance at all, and pay their small penalty, other policyholders and taxpayers will end up footing the bill when these uninsured people break an ankle or get pneumonia.

I hope all seniors reading this column understand that the Medicare coverage under Obamacare is offering more preventive care, less costly medicines and more coordinated health care. And you don’t have to change a thing, or go to any website to take advantage of these improved benefits.

Don’t like the website? Then pick up your Smartphone and apply by phone. As a federal official told The Washington Post: “Call center representatives will help to fill out an application and … to move forward with shopping and enrolling in a plan. We encourage Americans and their families to continue use all the resources available to apply for insurance — by phone, in person, by mail or online.”

Al Norman is the executive director of Mass Home Care. He can be reached at info@masshomecare.org, or at 413-772-6289.