Arts and HumanitiesWith a New Season and New Resident Artists, Louisville's Theatre  Looks to the Future
Local NewsKentucky Pushes Back Deadline in Search for Attorneys to Appeal Same-Sex Marriage Order
Local NewsWriter Alain du Botton on News, Media Literacy, and Whether Reporters Should Adjust Facts
Mon September 30, 2013
Congressman John Yarmuth Taking Myth-Buster Lead Ahead of Obamacare Implementation
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is scheduled to launch its open enrollment for individuals without health insurance beginning on Oct. 1.
In Kentucky, one in six people are uninsured and officials hope as the law unfolds that residents will take advantage of the state-approved insurance plans.
One of the chief changes under the new federal mandate is no one can be denied health care coverage for any reason, including pre-existing conditions.
But three years after it passed, Obamacare remains the source of continued bickering in Washington and the root of a possible government shutdown.
"A lot of this is partisan and anti-Obama sentiment because we know that people support the various provisions of the Affordable Care Act by substantial margins," says Yarmuth, who voted for the law in 2010.
A recent poll conducted by CNBC bears out what the congressman is saying. The survey found 46 percent of Americans oppose the law when it carries the president’s name. But just 37 percent said they oppose the law when it is called the Affordable Care Act.
In states like Kentucky—where Obama is immensely unpopular—that has resulted in considerable confusion about the law as state officials are encouraging people to sign-up.
How much will it cost and where to start
Individuals seeking health insurance through state's health exchange program dubbed KyNect can sign-up by providing their age, home address, tobacco use and household income.
Coverage is set to begin January 1, 2014 and the state has outlined a number of scenarios in regards to costs that individuals seeking insurance are likely to see.
The cost has been an unknown which has plagued supporter's arguments. Obama administration officials did release a report earlier this month showing the average premium would be priced at about $250 a month without subsidies.
After tax credits are into account, 56 percent of uninsured Americans may qualify for individual health coverage plans at less than $100 per month.
Those figures are met with skepticism by Republican critics, who cite big employers dropping their cheaper health care plans and herding works to state exchanges.
Similar to auto insurance, prices will vary depending on things such as deductibles and the type of plan people choose. For instance, state officials have said for a healthy, non-smoking, 22-year-old Kentuckian earning less than $46,000 annually, costs could be anywhere between $51 and $112 per month.
Under the new federal requirement, states must certify that every health insurance plan being offered covers a uniform list of certain medical needs. These "essential benefits"are considered more robust than previous guidelines.
"Residents will understand right off the bat that the insurance will be high quality, that it will be affordable and that they will have a wide choice of providers," says Yarmuth. "All of these scare tactics that are out there are going to be dispelled just by the reality of the implementation."
According to KyNect those benefits includes emergency services, prescription drugs and wellness management to prevent certain illnesses.
In Yarmuth's district, which covers most of Louisville, that means 197,000 individuals will have health insurance that covers preventive services without any co-pays, coinsurance or deductible. That also includes 113,000 seniors in Louisville who are now eligible for Medicare preventive services who will also be spared those costs.
Other benefits that supporters such as Yarmuth are touting are the 231,000 individuals who will have insurance that cannot place so-called "lifetime limits" or annual limits on coverage starting next year.
Political opposition deepens as fixes are needed
After President Obama's re-election last fall, observers had expected the consternation over the health care law in Washington to end.
Two days after the election, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Oh., declared Obamacare was "the law of the land" and spoke to Congress tinkering with it rather than seeking repeal.
From the looks of the shutdown debate, the majority in the GOP-controlled House is more committed to uprooting Obamacare than ever. Many opponents—Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell chief among them—have spent the past year warning Obamacare will result in higher premium costs and job losses.
Yarmuth readily admits there are problems with the law in regards to part-time employees, which was brought to Democratic leaders attention by labor leaders.
From The Wall Street Journal:
Time is running out: Congress wrote this law; we voted for you. We have a problem; you need to fix it. The unintended consequences of the ACA are severe. Perverse incentives are already creating nightmare scenarios:
We believe that there are common-sense corrections that can be made within the existing statute that will allow our members to continue to keep their current health plans and benefits just as you and the President pledged. Unless changes are made, however, that promise is hollow.
Yarmuth says it's difficult for Democrats to address those needed fixes when GOP lawmakers are vying only to dismantle the law.
"There have been several unintended consequences, particularly in regard to part-time workers. That's essentially why the administration delayed the employer mandate for a year," he says. "The labor union issue is potentially a significant one. Again, that's something the administration is trying to work out. We can't get a legislative fix through Congress because if we try changing the law in anyway, the Republicans will try to repeal it."
Labor unions aren't jumping shipping on Obamacare altogether as some have suggest, but their serious concerns have not been address. It's part of what the all or nothing debate coming out of Washington is producing.
For Democrats, there appears to be no going back on the president's signature achievement and the hope is the unpopularity of the law will subside as benefits begin to roll out.
It's a hope that Obamacare's fiercest defenders are betting will pay off for constituents in the long-run and along with some bold political predictions.
"People like Mitch McConnell are going wake up next summer in the middle of a campaign and people are going to realize that he's been misleading them for the last few years," says Yarmuth. "And that's going to happen to a number of Republicans around the country. The rate issue is going to be the number one thing that's going to change public opinion on this. Six in ten people who will be able to buy insurance will be able buy it for less than $100 a month. Nobody expected it at that type of rate."