Get Ready, Enrollment for “Obamacare” begins October 1

Despite House Republicans’ 37 attempts—yes, 37— to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it will be fully implemented on January 1, 2014, including the state health insurance exchanges, the mandate to buy insurance, and no more pre-existing condition clauses in insurance policies. Congressional GOPers have worked diligently over the past couple of years to undermine the law. You must give them credit—they are persistent. Now, instead of trying to make it fail, they should help Democrats try to make it work and even improve upon it. I know, that’s asking a bit much, but I am an eternal optimist.

My last post about the ACA bemoaned the fact that the Obama Administration and the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department had done very little to raise awareness for the open enrollment period that commences October 1. Participation is important to the success of the exchanges. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll in April found that 42% of people were unaware that the ACA was still being implemented. Since then Organizing for Action, HHS, and healthcare advocates have begun a campaign to raise awareness and set-up a platform for enrolling Americans in the health insurance exchanges and answer questions.

This effort should have been initiated well before now, so timing is a concern for many involved in operating the exchanges. As of June 14, only 26 states have committed to expanding Medicaid, so many low-income people will remain uninsured. Further complicating the roll-out is how the exchanges are being established: some states are handling the exchanges themselves, some are working in tandem with the federal government, and others, like New Jersey (my state), are leaving it up to the federal government to organize.

DB_medicaid_map

Guaranteed there will be confusion and systemic glitches in the beginning, but hopefully not so many that healthcare reform opponents can fan the flames of opposition more than they already do. Healthcare advocates are hoping, as with Medicare Part D after its problematic roll-out in 2006, once the initial ACA problems are resolved, people will discover not only do they benefit from the program but they like it.

Steps are being taken to increase awareness and assist with the enrollment process. Organizing for Action and other pro-healthcare reform groups are spending millions of dollars on an advertising and public relations campaign, “Get Covered America,” and Doctors for America is training 500 doctors and medical students to educate patients about the enrollment process. The Enroll America website is a comprehensive resource for information about the healthcare law and provides enrollment assistance.

It is important for people to educate themselves about the provisions included in the ACA because there is much misinformation floating around about it. It is shocking the number of people who do not know what is in this legislation. There is a health reform quiz on the Kaiser Family Foundation site. I encourage you to take it. Knowledge is power and you may find that knowledge to be quite beneficial in making insurance coverage decisions for you and your family, especially those not covered under an employer-paid plan.

Wendell Potter, author of Deadly Spin and a former health insurance industry insider turned watchdog, has been writing extensively for several years about the topic of healthcare reform and how insurance companies manipulate the American public against reforming the system through media and public relations spin. Visit his site for articles that will help you separate fact from fiction. There is a lot of fear mongering about the ACA; Mr. Potter alleviates many of those fears.

The healthcare  reform legislation is far from perfect. However, there are many benefits people have already been receiving since March 2010. Sadly, the ACA won’t cover everyone—there will be people left out. Some individuals will have higher premium costs but with those costs should come better coverage as opposed to the “junk insurance” that is akin to having no coverage at all.

So, ready or not, Obamacare is happening. Are you informed and prepared for it?

Cross-posted at The Feisty Liberal

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