Obamacare Facts Are Stubborn Things

It's time to cut through the misinformation.

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An interesting thing happened at the Kentucky State Fair last month. A gentleman got the chance to look at the Kentucky online marketplace to buy health insurance – one of the many state marketplaces (aka "exchanges") coming online Oct. 1. He said, "This beats Obamacare, I hope."

The irony? He didn't realize he was looking at Obamacare!

News outlets are abuzz with a new poll showing public support for Obamacare is shrinking. But here's the thing: When Americans say they don't support Obamacare, what do they think they're opposed to? There have been so many lies and distortions about Obamacare that Americans don't recognize it when they see it. Almost half of Americans don't even realize Obamacare is law.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Obamacare.]

The problem is that fear of Obamacare may lead Congressional Republicans to defund the government at the end of the month – even though, as the Congressional Research Service has made clear and I've written here – stopping those annual appropriations will not slow Obamacare because of how the budget works. All it will do is hurt Americans who count on a functioning federal government.

Even worse, the fear of Obamacare may bring Congressional Republicans to default on the federal debt, which is expected to hit around mid-October. If Congress refuses to pay its credit card bill and America defaults on its debts, economists and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree it would cause an economic catastrophe with worldwide impacts.

Rather than bankrupting America, Americans should keep calm and get the facts. Just like the gentleman at the Kentucky State Fair, Americans should go to www.HealthCare.Gov to see for themselves what affordable health care – without discrimination – looks like. They'll find an online marketplace to compare and buy brand-name insurance at competitive rates, plus a subsidy if they don't make a ton of money. (Note to America's senior citizens: You shouldn't buy insurance on the marketplaces, because you're already covered by Medicare.)

Even better, those brand-name insurance companies no longer call the shots:

  • Already, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children who are preemies or get diabetes or have any other pre-existing condition.
    • As of January 1, insurers can't discriminate against adults with pre-existing conditions, such as moms who become pregnant or suffer from breast cancer. Half of Americans under age 65 say someone in their household has a pre-existing condition.
      • America's grandparents already get better prescription drug coverage, lower costs and free preventive care.
        • Older kids – up to age 26 – can stay on their parents' insurance. Insurance companies also can no longer bankrupt families with their old tricks of "caps in coverage" and "lifetime limits."
          • Americans even get rebates if the insurance companies spend too much money on CEO salaries, corporate jets and overhead, and too little on actual medical care. Last year, eight and a half million Americans got those rebates from their insurance company, and 13 million Americans got them in 2011. And, states are empowered to stop any insurance rate increases through careful "rate review."
          • [See a collection of political cartoons on the tea party.]

            Americans are getting lower premiums overall. The fears that Obamacare would lead to higher premiums haven't panned out. The Rand Corporation studied the issue and concluded that premiums are dropping. Similarly, within the online marketplaces, competition among the insurance companies is bringing better prices than expected. New Yorkers in the Obamacare marketplace will see a 50 percent drop in health insurance costs. And in California, bids are below expectations.

            When they launch in October, the online marketplaces will bring flexibility to Americans who are between jobs or who feel tied to a job they hate just for the insurance coverage. Moms who'd rather be at home with a new baby or who have always dreamed of starting their own business will no longer be stuck to a job for the insurance alone.

            The Wall Street Journal analyzed the Ohio marketplace, and found it would help people like Robert Wengrow, a 62 year-old Ohio man – who is too young for Medicare. As of October 1st, Robert can purchase insurance for himself and his wife for just $21 a month, instead of the $1,328 he's currently paying for insurance through his former employer. It would also help Bonnie DeYoung, a 59 year-old woman who has been unable to find any insurance company willing to take her on because she has diabetes. As of October, Bonnie can get a plan through the Ohio marketplace for just $153 a month. 

            Meanwhile, the misinformation continues. Tea Party Founder Jenny Beth Martin wrote in USA Today recently that Americans may lose their doctors under Obamacare. But the source she cited labeled that claim "mostly false." (Martin might need some new research staff. Or some new facts.)

            Let's hope Congressional Republicans – facing critical decisions on our nation's budget and the default crisis – spend more time reading the Wall Street Journal and less time listening to Tea Party claims that have no connection to the truth. Facts are stubborn things, as John Adams famously said.

            • Read Jamie Chandler: Syria and the 'American Exceptionalism' Distraction
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