Are you uninsured? Some states hope to block you from buying Obamacare
UPDATE, FROM FLORIDA: The state just banned all county health facilities from signing up uninsured residents, including their own uninsured patients, for the Affordable Care Act. Nice going, Gov. Scott. Better to have more sick people on the public dole than help them get Obamacare.
Two groups of people, in particular, have been looking forward to the start of Obamacare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act: Those of you who have been turned down for policies because of a health issue; and those of who haven’t been able to afford it but now will get help with the premium payments.
But how easily you will be able to sign up for the new coverage you’re due will depend on the state you live in. Some states are opening the door wide. Other states are doing their best to keep you uninsured.
The states that support coverage for their uninsured have been setting up the new health exchanges and training people, called “navigators,” to help you understand your choices. The insurance exchanges will work the way the Medicare Part D exchanges work now. Competing health insurers will put up their policies, coverage, and prices on a website and you can choose which one you want. You’ll also be able to choose from brochures and similar paper sources. Insurance agents can help, as well as navigators.
On the other hand, states where state governments oppose health coverage for its uninsured are making it hard for eligible people to get aboard or learn about any tax credits they’re entitled to. Here’s what’s going on:
–Florida passed a law in May, removing rate and consumer regulations from new health insurance policies. That’s an invitation to raise the price of premiums. The insurance companies are also required to tell customers how much of any increase is due to the Affordable Care Act. Florida says the ACA is a federal law and the feds should regulate the new policies. But the feds have never regulated insurance companies and have no mechanism for doing so.
–In Georgia, the insurance commissioner boasted that he was doing everything possible to obstruct the ACA. Among other things, he plans to require the navigators to pass what amounts to an exam for an insurance licence before they’ll be allowed to help people. He also bragged about the bureaucracy he can throw in the ACA’s way.
–In Missouri, it’s illegal for any state employee to do anything to help the uninsured get coverage. No information is being disseminated to Missouri residents. This is one of many states that refused to set up its own exchange. The federal government creates the exchange when a state will not, but lack of state cooperation will make it more difficult to operate.
–More than a dozen other states have set up time-consuming and expensive licensing procedures for navigators, to minimize the number of people available to help. They’re expected to scare off churches and small non-profit organizations that otherwise would be available to help. Health insurance agents and brokers strongly back the anti-navigator laws.
–In Congress, the House GOP is planning a “probe” of the navigators, to see if something fishy is going on. Navigator grants go to organizations such as hospitals, social service organizations, and clinics, to train workers to help consumers understand their new health care choices. The GOP is demanding documents, copies of communications, answers to complex questions, and other expensive paperwork.
–A handful of states say they won’t enforce the laws requiring insurers to accept people with pre-existing conditions, or the requirement to spend at least 80 percent of the dollars collected in premiums on medical care.
Like you, I’ve read the political, ideological, and financial reasons for trying to stop the ACA, and maybe you agree. But I keep thinking: These legislators, who all have great taxpayer-supported coverage, are making a holy cause out of keeping people uninsured. Why have I never heard them explain why going uninsured is good?