August 1, 2013

Publisher's Notebook: Educate yourself about Obamacare

By Willie Sawyers

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Hopefully business owners and local residents without insurance have been following the series on the Affordable Care Act that’s been running in this newspaper. It’s full of information about a major piece of legislation that attempts to reform the health care system.

Expect more information from the newspaper and other sources ahead of the open enrollment that begins on October 1. On that date, individuals and small businesses can buy affordable and qualified health benefit plans in a new transparent and competitive insurance marketplace.

The state of Kentucky has begun an $11 million information campaign to tell residents how to enroll in the insurance plans. Advertisements in newspapers, radio, billboards and online will direct enrollees to an online exchange at

Those seeking insurance should educate themselves on the ACA, commonly referred to as Obamacare, because there inevitably is confusion with such a massive rollout. Many questions are left to be answered ahead of the March 31, 2014 deadline when everyone, with few exceptions, will be required to have health insurance or pay a penalty.

But don’t fret. The ACA is moving forward and 32 million people, including 640,000 Kentuckians, will soon have access to affordable, quality health insurance that don’t have it now.

Remember the uncertainty surrounding the rollout of the Medicare prescription drug plans? Seniors and their families were up in arms whether to choose Plan A or Plan B and how it was going to affect them. Misinformation created fear and confusion.

But eventually the plans took hold and now everyone agrees the prescription drug program has been good for Medicare and the people who use it.

Kentucky residents shouldn’t rely on their elected officials, especially Republicans, to give them unbiased information about Obamacare and to help steer them through the enrollment process.

Our Republican congressmen joined their colleagues in the House of Representatives recently to vote, for the 37th time, to repeal Obamacare. It was, and always has been, a symbolic vote because even the House leadership admits there is no chance of a repeal.

That still hasn’t stopped other Republicans in Congress from trying even more drastic steps like defunding the IRS or even shutting down the federal government in hopes of stopping Obamacare.

It’s amazing how far the Republicans are willing to go to thwart a program just because it’s supported by President Barack Obama, no matter how beneficial and important the program may be. That’s how poisonous the political climate in Washington has become.  Instead of repeal, Republicans should work to refine the ACA.

It’s safe to say that Social Security, despite its importance to America’s senior citizens, would have no chance of passing the House of Representatives today.

Republicans claim Obamacare kills jobs by forcing employers to cut hours so they won’t have to provide insurance to full-time employees. Well, that trend was emerging long before the ACA was passed. For years, employers have been replacing full-time employees with part-time ones in an effort to cut labor costs and improve profit margins.

In the meantime, workers are stuck with low pay and no benefits and no access to affordable health care. That is, until open enrollment begins on October 1.

In London, Obamacare has meant an increase in jobs, with the announcement last week of 638 jobs at the new Serco facility in the industrial park to handle questions about the insurance plans.

Despite Republican assertions the contrary, Obamacare is doing what it’s designed to do by keeping down health care costs and providing affordable health insurance to people without it.

In fact, a recent survey of 11 states who have already set up their state insurance exchanges report rates are significantly lower than expected. Young, non smokers will be able to buy health insurance for less than $100 per month in many states.

For Americans who get health insurance through their employers, statistics show those rates have stabilized since passage of the ACA in 2010. Before that, many employees were getting hit with annual rate increases in the double digits.

A lot will be said and written in the next few months as the open enrollment phase begins. Businesses and people who are affected by the ACA should educate themselves about the plans and take full advantage of affordable health insurance, perhaps for the first time.

And don’t listen to the Obama haters.