Editorial: Feds too slow with N.J. Obamacare details


By South Jersey Times 
on September 15, 2013 at 9:57 AM, updated September 15, 2013 at 2:15 PM

Ready or not, here comes Obamacare.

On Oct. 1, the health insurance exchanges authorized by the Affordable Care Act are scheduled to start enrolling new policyholders. The law requires the uninsured to buy health insurance by January or pay a fine. To facilitate the process, states can set up their own insurance exchanges — an “exchange” being a group of providers presumed to provide affordable policies — or use the federal exchange.

New Jersey chose the federal option; however, with only two weeks till lift-off, the massive overhaul still presents more questions than answers.

How much will the policies cost, and how will middle- to low-income families afford this additional expense? How will the uninsured connect with the tax credits and subsidies proposed to help them? Of New Jersey’s 1 million uninsured, 850,000 are expected to obtain coverage somehow, whether public or private, by Jan. 1. That suggests some 150,000 who won’t or can’t get coverage could be subject to fines.

In Newark last week, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said details on costs would not be available till the end of September, but New Jersey residents could find information at their neighborhood Rite-Aid. Aside from the “Say, what?” factor of relying on a chain drugstore for official government information, here’s what else we want to know:

– What about seasonal employees or those who must work a certain number of hours to get benefits? If Joe Dry-Wall hasn’t worked the minimum by Jan. 1, would he be fined? And if he’s covered by March, would the fine be returned? Suppose he’s off the books again by October? Then what?

– What about spouses who lose coverage through divorce? If Jane Goodwife is covered in January but loses her insurance in July, how long before a fine kicks in?

– Suppose Company X declares bankruptcy and the employees lose their benefits. Would the company be fined?

– If a family has extraordinary expenses one year, what’s to stop their premiums from escalating the next?

What’s the point of all this? To make Americans more healthy or to make the insurance industry more profitable?

Although it is Gov. Chris Christie’s fault that our state didn’t set up its own exchanges with familiar providers and policies, blame HHS and Sebelius for the dearth of information about what New Jerseyans face under the federal option come Oct. 1. The Obama administration dropped the ball, and that is a bad sign for things to come.

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4 Responses to Editorial: Feds too slow with N.J. Obamacare details

  1. jackcollier7 says:

    Here in England we are stuck with the National Health Service, which employs some 1,400,000 staff, allegedly. The NHS costs more than the United Kingdom can afford, yet there are scandals every week over poor care, abuse of patients, vast salaries, lying by officials under oath, gagging orders and misuse of the service. From here it looks like Obamacare is going to be much worse than the NHS. Best of luck with that one.

    • Natasha says:

      I don’t think our system will be much better. I’d like to think that it will work but I have my doubts. Our health care costs are astronomical compared to costs in England and your hospitals are closing because of money problems. How then can we hope to provide health care to all Americans? We can’t do it. We can force many to buy coverage but coverage does not necessarily provide access to health care.

  2. weggieboy says:

    I recall the confusion when Medicare Plan D was initiated during the George W. Bush administration. I was responsible for getting my elderly parents set up in the program, and the meeting the local officials held to help us understand the process was complicated by the fact that they, too, hadn’t been told the full details of it. They couldn’t answer any questions!

    Anyway, we all survived the process. (Though the stress wasted me, caused complications in my health…!)

    When it was my turn to sign up for Plan D this year, the confusion and lack of answers wasn’t an issue.

    Likewise, the AHCA will take some sorting through, perhaps even a longer time than the Plan D since it is a more complex system made more confusing by outright lies from opponents and outright ignorance of the details from proponents.

    • Natasha says:

      I know I still don’t understand very well when Mom describes her Medicare coverage and the “donut hole.” But at least she has basic medical coverage. The AHCA is very complicated and it will be very interesting how it will be received when it is fully explained to everyone. By that time, I will be enrolled in a managed care plan with my new employer and the concept of managed care is new for me. The only thing I understand about it so far is that I can’t see my own doctors.

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