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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press The Washington Post is Confused About Obamacare, People With Insurance Benefit Too

The Washington Post is Confused About Obamacare, People With Insurance Benefit Too

Monday, 31 March 2014 07:19

The Washington Post is still having a hard time understanding Obamacare. It repeated the silliness about the exchanges needing young people to sign up. (The issue is health, not age, as we have been trying to explain to elite reporters for years.)

A front page article on the political impact of Obamacare told readers:

"Still, Democrats may be disappointed if they expect the newly insured to emerge as a politically powerful constituency, as senior citizens did for Medicare. Robert J. Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health, said polls suggest that nine of 10 people who vote in midterm elections are insured. Thus, they are unlikely to benefit from the law."

This is not true. Just as tens of millions of people who file no claims in the course of a year benefit from having insurance, the people who already have insurance benefit from Obamacare. They now are in a situation where if they lose their job or decide to quit they will still be able to get insurance. That was not previously true, especially if a worker or someone in their family has a serious medical condition.

The political benefit of this ability to buy insurance outside of employment will depend on the extent to which people are aware of it. Insofar as major media outlets try to hide what is arguably the most important feature of Obamacare, it will not benefit the Democrats politically. However that is a function of media coverage of the law, not the law itself.

Comments (18)Add Comment
Especially important for near-retirees
written by Mike B., March 31, 2014 7:44
I am getting to the point at which I could feasibly decide to retire, although I am under 65. To keep my present insurance would cost over $600/month if I retired. With PPACA, I can get insurance that I think would be at least as good for less than $100/month (my total income will not be large, but I can use savings that have already been taxed to make my modified adjusted gross income, which determines the subsidies, quite low). The almost $600/month difference is equivalent to about 2 extra years of work for me.
The Traction of Untruths
written by Larry Signor, March 31, 2014 8:07
while covering the ACA the media has failed spectacularly. Most employers I talk to are sure "Obamacare" will bankrupt them, whether they have two, ten or forty employees. Most of the employees I talk to think they will be forced into unattractive insurance options or reduced to part-time workers with no insurance. There simply is no push-back from the MSM to revel the straw-men besieging the ACA.
Don't forget adult child coverage
written by Dennis, March 31, 2014 8:52
My son is still on my insurance at age 24, because he has a job that doesn't offer benefits. So, ACA benefited my family even though I have employer coverage.
Potential ACA negative? Employer insurance changes
written by Dennis, March 31, 2014 9:00
I believe that large numbers of people who have employment-associated insurance coverage MAY begin to see a negative outcome, though.

My employer is charging significantly more for insurance coverage this year. The cost of the company plan is actually comparable, possibly even more, than plans on the exchange.

Placing myself in an employer's shoes, might I not see ACA as an opportunity to offload a very large cost by making my health plan expensive enough that employees will consider opting out and buying their own coverage through the exchange?

I have wondered if perhaps this wasn't a hidden goal of ACA all along. We have acknowledged that it does not make sense for health care to be tied to employment, but that it would be too disruptive to change this all at once. Perhaps this is the incremental, back door way of achieving it.

It could be a positive in the long run, but only if an acceptable long term national health plan arises out of it.
written by skeptonomist, March 31, 2014 9:24
Unless there really is such a thing as a free lunch, somebody has to pay for extending health care to the millions who have been uninsured. This will be the mostly better-off people who now have insurance, who will be monetarily worse off - they will have to pay more taxes and/or higher premiums for insurance. And unless Congress had drastically changed its views about taxation, the burden will fall on the working middle class, not the capitalists in the upper 1%. There is certainly no reason to suppose that the profits of insurance companies or health-care industries will be squeezed - they wouldn't have agreed to the ACA otherwise. They expect to make more money from the ACA than they were getting before, not less. And there is little in the ACA to improve overall efficiency.

Exactly how individuals benefit or lose from the very many specific provisions of the ACA is extremely complicated. There is certainly a lot of ignorance about the whole thing, but the ACA is so complicated it is not likely that anyone will be able to evaluate whether they are better off until they have actual experience, and this will take years to play out. Don't expect the media to educate people about it - people will tune out in favor of the latest scandal or missing person/plane.
written by skeptonomist, March 31, 2014 9:35
I shouldn't say that no one will know whether they have benefited or lost - obviously many will know immediately. But the net win/loss will take a long time to solidify. Insurance companies are guessing about rates now, and since provisions about such things about penalties will still be changing for at least two years, rates will not stabilize for years.
written by jeff S, March 31, 2014 9:37
Did you read the NY Times last week? There was an article that refered to the kind of insurance people were recieving via Obama care. One man had to $10,000 per year for a plan with a $12,000 deductable. How many families spend more than $12,000 per year on health care? answer: very very few. A single person was paying $5000 per year for a policy with a $6500 deductable. Same question, same answer.
You say Obama care provided insurance in the event you lose your job. You are wrong. it doesn't. If you lose your job you lose your income and your ability to pay premiums.

Obama care should really be called "Free money for Insurance Companies Care" FMFICC for short.
The WaPo is campaigning for Republicans ...
written by John Puma, March 31, 2014 12:30
... OK, so it's not news.

But like the party that would likely crumble without constant media support, the WaPo attacks the opponents' self-percieved strength: "... Democrats may be disappointed if they expect the newly insured to emerge as a politically powerful constituency ..."

Note: I favored Medicare for all (HR 676, e.g.) that would have been a much superior approach in terms of actual intent of "reform" not to mention an irrepressible political boost, despite media hackery.
There are good things in PPACA
written by Mike B., March 31, 2014 12:38
I'm not a fan of PPACA - I'd much prefer single payer or some other national health system. However, most of the horror stories about PPACA costing people more for worse insurance have turned out to be false. PPACA does greatly expand Medicaid (and would have expanded it more, if not for the Supreme Court ruling). It does require people with pre-existing conditions to be covered, and lets young people stay on their parents' insurance longer. It does require insurers to pay out in benefits a large percentage of premiums. As far as who pays, there is a tax on upper income people that pays for a lot of it.
written by Alex Bollinger, March 31, 2014 4:00
Part of the problem is the way the media talks about the ACA, as if it created one single government bureau to handle health care for poor people or something. It was a law with a thousand moving parts - some relying on others, while others were fairly independent of the rest of the bill - so there's no need to repeal it entirely or not.

Some parts would be very politically unpopular to repeal, like parents' health care for 19-26 year olds. Do middle-aged parents who have employer-based insurance and children in college/looking for work vote? Hell yeah.

The Medicaid expansion would be hard to do away with as well, since even the Supreme Court agrees that Medicaid is so popular that taking it away is an unfair way to punish states.

So they'd have to make a story for repealing a certain piece of the ACA, and I can't really see it for a lot of the pieces. Health care exchanges? Yeah, I'm sure they can build popular opposition to a website. The community rating? That's really popular for reasons Prof. Baker laid out. Some of the smaller provisions about smoking programs and studies on cost effectiveness? Um, ok.

The most vulnerable part of the bill is the subsidies, since they're not all or nothing. They can be reduced in future budget show-downs until they're nothing. That would just make the law super-sucky for some people, but that never stopped the GOP before.
written by Alex Bollinger, March 31, 2014 4:09
jeff S: I think you are very unfamiliar with the individual insurance market pre-Obamacare.

Heck, even people who were insured through their employers were paying more than the numbers you cite. My parents were paying $1500/month, in conjunction to what my mother's employer was covering, for the "family" plan (2 people).

Health insurance is really expensive. I'm surprised so many people are realizing this just now, but better late than never, I guess.
written by Alex Bollinger, March 31, 2014 4:21
skeptonomist: there is a difference between "skeptical" and "uninformed." My god, this bill was debated for like a year, dissected on blogs and newspapers and TV, and you managed to escape even a basic understanding of it.

If you were paying attention to politics instead of the sex scandal du jour at the time, you would remember that:

1) The bill was budget-neutral. It was paid for with tax increases and cuts to other programs that were in the bill itself. So we know what's going to happen!

2) The biggest tax increase was on incomes above $200K ($250K for married couples). There was a windfall tax medical equipment, which got debated again last year because Republicans wanted to repeal that by itself (because medical equipment companies are rich). There were also smaller sin taxes like one on tanning beds. I'm not going to cry for people who aren't going to give themselves skin cancer anymore.

3) The health care industry did not agree to Obamacare. They didn't even like it - that's why they spent millions lobbying against it.

As a fun fact, did you know that the health insurance industry never gets to vote on any bill in Congress?

"There is certainly a lot of ignorance about the whole thing"

written by skeptonomist, March 31, 2014 5:07
No lobbyists ever get to vote on any bill in Congress, but somehow the various interests think they are worthwhile and spend a lot of money on them. And while they may not vote on the bills themselves, they often actually write large parts of them and many legislators vote for such bills without reading them.

Revenue neutrality is very questionable. The compensating cuts in other programs may never be actually enforced. The doc fix is an example of how mandated cuts can be avoided. Then when the deficit increases it's blamed on "entitlements".

written by Ron Alley, March 31, 2014 6:00
Pre-ACA, insurance policies typically provided a 30-day grace period and coverage terminated for non-payment at the end of that grace period. Under the ACA, the grace period is 90 days. That may prove significant to many struggling after being laid off. This creates some uncertainty among hospitals and physicians with respect to treatment provided during the relatively long grace period.
Say Whut!?
written by John Parks, March 31, 2014 7:06
I thought you were doing fine until you added:
"health insurance industry never gets to vote on any bill in Congress?"

That may be a "fun fact" if you are making a joke or just trying to be a devil's advocate.

Somewhere I missed the subtle clue that what you were saying was a jest or sarcasm.
winners & probably less losers
written by watermelonpunch, April 01, 2014 7:01

written by Alex Bollinger, March 31, 2014 4:09
Health insurance is really expensive. I'm surprised so many people are realizing this just now, but better late than never, I guess.

Yes, it's about time people realize how expensive it is, has been, and may continue to be.

I think jeff s's sentiments are legitimate, as one angle. I think the health insurance companies are making out... by having a law that essentially allows them to stay in what I think is an unsustainable business model.

But repealing the ACA wouldn't stop that.
That's the point.
If jeff s thinks his pals would have lower deductibles & premiums to pay if they repealed Obamacare - he'd be right, probably... they wouldn't have insurance at all.

That some of us still don't have insurance is also a legitimate complaint.
But I don't think repealing the ACA would get any of those people any closer to having it!
response to Alex
written by jeff S, April 01, 2014 4:32
Alex, the fact that Health insurance was a rip off pre Obama Care is no excuse. Obama Care was supposed to fix this problem. It hasn't, moreover, it couldn't. It doesn't address the root of the problem which is corporate control over Health care.

In fact Obama care makes the problems worse because it has creaed a whole new bureacracy around managing the sign up web sites. The Federal site costs $400 million. Each state that has participated in the plan has its own site adding billions more plus the cost of paying for advisors to help people navigate the sites.

How much would single payer system cost to establish? Nearly zero. All you need is a list of SS# which already exists, which goes to show how much more efficient single payer is than Obama Care.
Alex Insurance Companies
written by jeff S, April 01, 2014 4:38
you say that the Insurance companies don't like Obama care. You could not be more wrong. Max Baccus (Montana Senator) wrote the bill. He is a bag man for the insurance companies. He has not only recieved millions in campaign donations from the Health Insurance Industry but there is literally a revolving door which works in both direction between his staff and the Insurance industry.

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Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.