In just over a week, 16 million Americans living without health insurance today will be able to enroll in a new plan. And in a mere 100 days, those new plans, along with a litany of consumer protections, will go into effect. But even though some of the most substantial chunks of the Affordable Care Act are just around the corner, Americans are still in the dark about exactly how this complicated reform law will affect them (Pick a poll, any poll: Washington Post/ABC, USA Today/Pew, NBC/Wall Street Journal).
For more than two years, we've been lucky to have former CIGNA executive Wendell Potter offer analysis on the dense, and often-politicized, health care reform. Potter spent 15 years helping one of the biggest health insurance companies in the U.S. spin and craft its message, but since 2009, he’s instead endeavored to expose the inner workings of profit-driven corporate insurers.
Below, you’ll find eight columns from this year that really resonated with you, our readers. So even though we’ve given Potter this week off, we hope you find value in some of his best analysis and explanation of Obamacare.
“[GOP] lawmakers probably won’t tell their constituents that two of the most important provisions of the law they profess to hate were actually Republican ideas the Democrats embraced in hopes of getting bipartisan support for reform. The first such provision is the requirement that all Americans not covered by a public plan like Medicare or Medicaid must buy coverage from a private insurance company. The second provision: establishment of state health insurance marketplaces (called exchanges in the law) where private insurers compete online for customers.”
“I predict that beginning Oct. 1, when the marketplaces go online, most people will discover that because of the new level of competition and the availability of tax credits, affordable coverage will actually at long last be available. To save face, though, you can also expect those politicians who have been crying 'rate shock' to search high and low for constituents who believe their policies have grown more expensive because of Obamacare.”
Drug companies have armies of lobbyists, and the rest of us are paying the price, from Feb. 11, 2013
“It’s actually the pharmaceutical industry that spends the most each year to influence our lawmakers, forking over a total of $2.6 billion on lobbying activities from 1998 through 2012, according to OpenSecrets.org. To get some perspective on just how big that number is, consider that oil and gas companies and their trade associations spent $1.4 billion lobbying Congress over the same time frame while the defense and aerospace industry spent $662 million, a fourth of Big Pharma’s total.”
“First do no harm. That’s a tenet of medical ethics that future doctors worldwide are taught in medical school. If only the people we elect to represent us were required to take such an oath when they’re sworn into office. Because they aren’t, folks in Florida are facing having to pay far more for health insurance over the next two years than necessary. And health insurance executives will be laughing all the way to the bank.”
“From now on, health insurers will have to provide us with information in plain English, and in no more than four pages, about what their policies cover and how much we’ll have to pay out of our own pockets when we get sick. And they’ll have to provide it in a standard format that will enable us to make apples-to-apples comparisons among health plans. As you can imagine, insurers fought hard to kill that part of the law. That’s because they’ve profited for years by using legalese and gobbledygook in describing their policies, and also by purposely withholding information we really need to make informed coverage decisions.”
Opponents hope to kill health care reform by scaring people, but time for that is running out, from Aug. 26, 2013
“Fear mongering has a shelf life. The strategy the president’s opponents have been using to influence public opinion is based on the premise that people fear the unknown. Most of us just don’t like uncertainty. President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010, but the most important consumer benefits and protections won’t go into effect until January 1, 2014. That has given the president’s political adversaries three and a half years to spread lies and misinformation.”
While opponents spend millions to obfuscate, simple explanation doesn't have to break the bank, from Sept. 9, 2013
“People who have an agenda, motivated by political or financial gain, just make stuff up. And then they use TV ads and the Internet to make sure the made-up stuff is repeated often enough so that gullible Americans eventually accept it as truth. Or at the very least grow confused and skeptical. It is because supporters of the law have been outspent more than 5 to 1, and because opponents in the House of Representatives have voted 40 times to repeal all or part of it, that most of us don’t have a clue how the law will affect us. A sizable percentage of Americans actually believe the law has been repealed.”
Misleading information and sloppy coverage are confusing the public about Obamacare, from Aug. 12, 2013
“Considering all the intentionally misleading information we are being subjected to about Obamacare from politicians and special interests with an obvious agenda, it will be vitally important for reporters to be more responsible in their reporting. Sensational media stories with attention-grabbing headlines but inadequate analysis will only add to Americans’ confusion about a law that in reality will help the vast majority of us.”