Saturday Column: As Obamacare kicks off, many questions remain

September 28, 2013


Millions, perhaps billions, of dollars have been spent over the past 20 years trying to sell the public and members of Congress on a national health care plan.

In 2010, Congress passed a bill containing more than 950 pages, with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying there would be no way to find out what was in the bill until after it was passed and put into operation.

Now, the first stage of this process is about to kick in. Tuesday is the official start-up day or opening day for the insurance marketplaces, referred to as “exchanges.”

How many individuals sign up for the Obamacare plan between Tuesday and next January will, to a large degree, signal whether the plan is going to work or will prove to be unworkable, unacceptable and a fiscal nightmare.

There’s little question that the Affordable Care Act is the most important and highest priority piece of legislation for President Obama. This was designed to be his signature legislative achievement, the hallmark of his presidency, and he has poured every possible effort into jamming the act through Congress and, now, getting sufficient number of younger adults to commit to the plan.

Thousands of questionably trained and questionably informed “navigators” have been hired to blanket the country offering advice and selling the plan to those who are puzzled about whether they should sign up for the program.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans, including a high percentage of those serving as members of Congress, don’t know many details of the plan and how it could or would affect the lives of millions, the quality and breadth of their health care, the costs and the effects of greater federal control of health care. One of the deep concerns is why members of Congress and the administration are not required to sign up for the Obamacare program.

As more details of the ACA become known, growing numbers of major American companies are opting out of the plan, telling their employees to look elsewhere for health insurance. More and more employers are reducing the number of full-time employees, converting those who agree to part-time status (less than 30 hours a week). There also are growing numbers of stories of almost a bait-and-switch tactic being used to encourage younger people to sign up for plans that now have low premiums but high deductibles with little information about the higher costs of premiums as they grow older.

Current public opinion polls show the majority of Americans oppose the Obama plan, with this negative percentage growing week by week. Likewise, similar polls show the public’s approval rating for Obama dropping below the 50 percent level.

Members of Congress are engaged in an unusually mean-spirited battle with the majority of Democratic senators and House members fighting to keep Obama from being embarrassed by a defeat of his prized legislation thereby making his last two-plus years in the Oval Office a true and damaged “lame duck” period.

No one knows how many of these Democrats honestly think the Obamacare bill is fiscally sound, makes sense and is the right thing for the country or if they are in the trenches primarily to uphold the stature and reputation of their president.

Conversely, how many Republican senators and House members honestly think the legislation is bad for the country, bad for health care and bad for the public? Or is their primary goal to wound and defeat Obama and make those Democrats who supported the legislation more vulnerable when they seek re-election in 2014 or 2016?

To what extent have the lobbying efforts of major health insurance companies affected the health care debate? These companies want to protect their highly lucrative businesses and are willing to invest large sums of money to elect members of Congress who support their cause.

There is one known fact: The public, the consumer, doesn’t know much about the ACA and how it will impact their own lives, members of their families, those turning 26 years of age, employers, employees, doctors, insurance companies and the fiscal health of this country. Many also question whether the Obama health care plan is just the first of many massive federal takeovers Obama has in mind related to his initial pledge to make “fundamental changes” in America.

It’s a dangerous game, one that would seem far too important to endorse and commit to without far more knowledge and understanding of what an individual, or the country, is buying.

Should such action be based on a hunch, good intentions and trusting the honesty of partisan elected officials or should members of Congress take a step back, make a closer examination of the legislation and help the public have a better, more balanced idea of the pros, cons and consequences of the legislation.

As one prominent Democratic legislator said, the nation is heading for a massive train wreck with the adoption and implementation of Obamacare.

This should be sufficient warning. Plus the majority of Americans remain puzzled, confused, frustrated, mad and fed up. They really don’t know what’s right, and growing numbers believe they have been, and are being, hoodwinked and question whether their president and those who either support the president or oppose Obamacare are being honest with the public.

The Obama health care plan, supposedly designed to improve health care in the United States is itself not healthy. It needs and immediate and thorough examination.


thelonious 4 years, 8 months ago

Saturday Column: As Dolph writes his latest Saturday Column, many questions remain.

Millions, perhaps billions, of Dolph's brain cells have been lost over the past 20 (?) years, resulting in the dangerous game of him writing the ridiculous slop above. Many (?) also question whether Dolph's obsession with Obama and the Obama health care plan is really just one of many massive federal takeovers Obama has in mind. Look out, he's coming for you next! :-)

By the way, how does a President "jam" an act through Congress, anyway? I always thought they voted on legislation - silly me!

Dolph Hannity Limbaugh, you lost. The election in 2008. The battle in Congress in 2010. The election (again) in 2012. Perhaps the KS Governorship in 2014? We can only hope!

JEBKAY 4 years, 8 months ago

I agree with you. I especially like the Dolph Hannity Limbaugh comment. Way to go

Carol Bowen 4 years, 8 months ago

Mr. Simons, some of your facts are eromh see below. "On Aug. 7, the Office of Personnel Management, which administers the FEHB Program, issued a proposed rule saying that the federal government could continue to make contributions toward the premiums of lawmakers and their staffs on the exchanges. The federal government has long made such premium contributions, as other employers do for their employees. OPM said the contribution couldn’t be more than what it is under the FEHB Program. That ruling, perhaps predictably, sparked new — and still bogus — claims from Republicans of Congress being “exempt” from the law." -fact Check .org.

OlDan 4 years, 8 months ago

The fact remains that these congressional subsidies are not available to the general population and amounts to an exemption for Congress. Not much will change for our politicians. Same coverage and they have the advantage of government subsidies reqardless of income, age, etc.

In_God_we_trust 4 years, 7 months ago

It is now reported that (very quietly) on the Obamacare web site, that the word "free" health care has been replaced by "low cost". No more "free".

cowboy 4 years, 8 months ago

It amazes me the alternate reality that folks like Mr. Simon live in . The ACA was passed by both houses. The 2012 election was won on the ACA. The Supreme court upheld the ACA. Those are the polls that count ! What part of an election do you not understand. The winner get to forward their agenda as the people have spoken.

To date the losers , you and yours , have tried every tactic , slur , delay , false crisis bargaining , to try and chip away at , defund , repeal , and otherwise spread falsehoods about the act. Is this why you were sent to congress ? The house of ill repute has voted to repeal some 40 times now.

The sorry truth is that the old south mentality of the GOP cant stand that we have a minority president and will do anything to deny him success. Well they can't talk about deficits because those have dropped. He has led the country out of the deepest crash since the 30's so they can't gripe about that. He has stopped two wars and prosecuted other actions decisively so they can't gripe about that. He has maneuvered Syria into the UN because there is some international respect again after the Bush debacle so they can't gripe about that.

The republicans have refused to accept the results of a democratic elections spouting secession , anarchy , doing nothing in congress , refusing to enact the laws on state levels. Their behavior is irresponsible and reinforces the fact that they are unfit to govern.

JEBKAY 4 years, 8 months ago

I could not have said it better myself. I agree with everything you said. It gives me hope to know that I am not the only one in Kansas that thinks this way. Thank You.

jesse499 4 years, 8 months ago

The way the Government is ran do you really want them in charge of your health care I don't.

Phil Minkin 4 years, 8 months ago

I certainly don't want YOU in charge of grammar or punctuation.

tomatogrower 4 years, 8 months ago

Actually the insurance companies have been in charge of your health care for several years now, and they have done a really lousy job, but they have gotten rich doing it. And have you ever had to get a problem resolved with an insurance company? You really think the government could screw it up anymore? Insurance companies only care about their profit, not about your health care. Your either really naive, very young, or an insurance company executive who is looking at getting smaller bonuses.

Michael Throop 4 years, 8 months ago

Aside from the fact the "Affordable" care act was "passed" (rammed through is spot on) by an out-of-control ultra liberal majority, twisting arms and handing out political favors (The Nebraska Compromise, among others), it may be the "law of the land" by not in my name. I do have a couple of questions for the cheerleaders:

Do you know you Personal Health Care Identification Number? It was supposed to be in place after Clinton's Congress passed it in 1991. Still waiting, and the system will fair because your information isn't ported anywhere in the system across the country. Get sick in L.A. ?? Tough luck. There will be no information on your medications, allergies, per-existing conditions, anything. The life-saving legislation doesn't do anything for you in this situation.

Are you aware health care systems' computers can't talk to each other to exchange this vital information when someone sends it? Maybe that's one of those glitches I keep hearing about that will be a bump in the road..Ah, OK.

Does anyone really believe, save for the liberal kool aid drinkers, that the "invincibles" will sign up like sheep on October 1? Really? Go ask 100 kids on the KU campus : 1. Do they know they have to sign up if they're not on Mommy and Daddy's insurance, and that their meager paycheck will be nicked by the IRS if they don't produce proof of insurance?

What's to prevent someone from signing up for government-required insurance, write down the number at tax time, and cancel the next day? They get hit by a car, go to the Lawrence Memorial ED and, uh oh, an uninsured person..uh oh.

I'm sure the "fact checkers" have their government sponsored propaganda from their local taxpayer supported Democratic or union "navigator", so maybe they can set me straight.

Phil Minkin 4 years, 8 months ago

As long as Republicans distort, exaggerate and downright lie about Obama care there will be "questions".

Michael Throop 4 years, 8 months ago

dunno, foodboy, Republicans aren't pointing out the above issues, that I am aware of..maybe a little less flame throwing and slogan-using, and a bit more examination is in order, don't you think?

Phil Minkin 4 years, 8 months ago

2 words: DEATH PANELS. There has been a constant barrage of deliberate mis-characterizations, distortions and lies about Obama care. It is without a doubt not perfect, but Repugs have offered no ways to improve it, just 41 pointless votes to eliminate it.

Michael Throop 4 years, 8 months ago

Who's talking about "death panels" on the Republican side? Sarah Palin? Uh, she's not anywhere on the radar. Michelle Bachmann? She's not running again. As for improving the situation, how about comprehensive solutions for the 4 million (not 40 million or 400 million, or whatever) Americans who are in genuine need of assistance with their insurance. One size fits all (and that's what this is) will never work.

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

How is this "one size fits all"?

It offers the possibility of only catastrophic insurance for young people, the possibility of not buying insurance and just paying the "fine/tax", the exchanges offer 4 possibilities from bronze to platinum, businesses can make choices, etc.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 4 years, 8 months ago

Obama lies so much, how could anyone trust him about anything? No doubt he has brought the "change" he promised. He does it by bypassing the congress, issuing executive orders like the emperor he thinks himself to be, and driving our country into more and more debt. I do not trust him, anything he does, or any of his appointed staff.

lcarol 4 years, 7 months ago

Yeah I know, he's black. It took me only 5 words to make your argument for you. Sigh........

James Minor 4 years, 8 months ago

Anyone that knows or vaguely understands politics should know that any legislation is difficult to implement. We all know that politicians are not going to get it right the first time because it involves the masses and you can't please everyone. Americans don't like the current health care system, it is too expensive and inaccurate at times. Prescription drugs are too expensive and overly prescribed to patients. So, what is being done to reduce some of the problems in health care - The Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately there are some gaps, but remember it is driven by politicians. Is the concept of affordable health care a good one - I think so? But, it will take time to understand, work out the bugs, and hope the necessary changes are not tied up in silly debates and legislation. Hopefully, one of the concepts is to provide health care to those and their families who have lost their job. Americans frown on the potential impact to small business but if health insurance is not provided by the business, how does an employee get affordable heath care?

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

That's not what Pelosi said.

I heard a discussion with some trained "navigators" on the radio - they seemed very qualified and competent. What is Dolph relying on for his assertion that they're not?

The fact that many Americans are ill-informed isn't anybody's fault but their own - information is readily available online about the ACA and the exchanges.

As far as "stories" and "questions" about rather paranoid sounding things, I'm not sure those are worth discussing.

In_God_we_trust 4 years, 8 months ago

This article puts it very mildly, but true. The ACA needs to be defunded and repealed now. The President is hurting himself with his current attitude. The President's unprofessional attitude has already generated a great deal of anger from the public, towards him and his policies, as well as democrats in Congress; who are bent on forcing this on the American public, when the public clearly doesn't want this bad law which is described as a "train wreck". The President has a growing risk of public supported impeachment at this point.

Keith 4 years, 8 months ago

Funniest comment so far on a very funny editorial.

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

The most interesting part of that for me is that many people say they don't understand the law very well.

That doesn't seem to stop them from having opinions about it.

And, in the group that does understand it well (or thinks they do), positive opinions are much more prevalent than negative ones.

Seems to me that means that people who don't know much about it have more negative opinions - of course, one should ask what those opinions are based on, and how valid they may be, right?

Steve Clark 4 years, 8 months ago

Lots of name calling here...

All I know is I just changed plans from one large company to another here in KS and my premiums for essentially the same plan and deductibles went down by almost 50%. I was told likely because of the changes coming with the ACA and the competition due to the exchanges.

I'm thinking, isn't that just the kind of savings and methodology (read capitalism) Republicans would favor instead of fighting?

tomatogrower 4 years, 8 months ago

That's also because there will be more competition, because there will be more companies from which to choose. Supposedly something conservatives should favor, since they are the free market advocates. But the real problem is the people who pull the politician's strings. Insurance companies have always been a good investment, and they won't be able to make as much money as before. That's because the ACA forces insurance companies to spend 80% of the premiums on health care or give rebates, instead of making their CEO's an investors filthy rich. That's really what's behind all of the opposition - greed. But they call those of us who want health care for all greedy.

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

Interestingly, so far it looks like only the big companies that already had existing plans in areas are participating in exchanges for the most part.

In KS, it's the "big 3".

I had anticipated a greater number of competing companies - I wonder if that may happen in the future sometime.

average 4 years, 8 months ago

Americans hated Obamacare so much that they re-elected Obama handily and 1.5 million more Americans voted for a Democratic member of the US House in 2012 than voted for a Republican (the GOP held the House only because of how districts are gerrymandered). Resounding hatred, that.

Michael Throop 4 years, 8 months ago

I wouldn't call 52% a big victory. All you have to do is make sure your 100% get out to vote, plus depend on the "low information" crowd to sleepwalk to the voting booth, if they have any clue as to where it is.
HARDLY a plurality.

chootspa 4 years, 8 months ago

Considering that Obama was the first president to win by more than 51% of the popular vote twice since 1956, it's a bit of victory. He benefited from the silliest GOP opposition imaginable, but the centerpiece of ol' 47% Romney's campaign was that he was going to repeal Obamacare.

Mark Pickerel 4 years, 8 months ago

Seems like there are plenty of "low information" voters on the Republican side, they way they talk about ACA.

jayhawklawrence 4 years, 8 months ago

It seems to me that the Republican Party has bet it's entire future on the failure of the ACA.

I think most Americans want to see if the plan will work while most Republican Party leaders are afraid that it will.

I hope the outcome will eventually be a move toward more honesty in politics and a better informed country.

In_God_we_trust 4 years, 8 months ago

Most Americans don't want a socialistic program that is government run and expensive. They do want pre-existing conditions to be removed, which was one feature of ACA that was good. The tax for not buying insurance is absurd. The government should not be in the business of health care or forcing citizens to buy insurance.

chootspa 4 years, 8 months ago

Good news. Socialistic programs that are government-run are not expensive. We actually spend more government money on healthcare than countries like England that just socialize the whole thing - with worse health outcomes. It's a bit moot, since the ACA isn't a socialistic program. It leverages market competition to drive down costs.

By adding the insurance mandate, the risk pool is lowered, so the prices don't skyrocket in reaction to getting rid of pre-existing conditions. You really can't have one without the other.

The government really should be more in the business of health care, but the ACA sure is better than nothing.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

The public wants Medicare Single Payer Insurance however the insurance industry and too damn in congress keep telling taxpayers they don't want the best plan. Unfortunately a few too many citizens buy into the misinformation campaign.

Time has come for citizens to tell Congress to go straight to hell and put Single-Payer (HR 676 and S 703) Expanded Medicare for All ON THE BALLOT. http://www.healthcare-now.org/docs/spreport.pdf

Richard Payton 4 years, 8 months ago

Be warned navigators can't tell you which policy to purchase. The navigators are to help you determine which policy would be best for you. The State of Kansas has approved 72 plans to be sold in Kansas.

tomatogrower 4 years, 8 months ago

A whole lot more money has been spent trying to tear down and get rid of this legislation and spreading lies about it, than defending it. That's the problem, the public has not been informed well enough, or haven't bothered to be informed well enough. Many still think there are death squads called for in the legislation. The "questionably trained and questionably informed “navigators” of whom you speak, have read the bill and understand it. Have you? Or have you just let yourself be informed by people who have never read the act and just get their information from the internet and from the anarchist Tea Party, who are out to get President Obama, ACA or no ACA, even if it means they destroy our country.

In_God_we_trust 4 years, 8 months ago

An interesting article on how the Senate leader Harry Reid inserted additional discretionary spending of $967 billion dollars into the original house bill that was sent back to the house.


Corey Williams 4 years, 8 months ago

Actually: "The House has already begun passing individual fiscal year 2014 appropriations bills that will total $967 billion in non-emergency spending. " "Meanwhile, this week the Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to approve total non-disaster discretionary spending of $1.058 trillion. This is $91 billion higher than current law allows..." http://www.rpc.senate.gov/policy-papers/on-appropriations-senate-democrats-spend-more

Trumbull 4 years, 8 months ago

The congressional house is using ACA for political purposes and is using it to spread fear and division amongst us. This is very troubling because they are dividing us as a country.

They say that Obama Care will destroy the economy. This is a gross exaggeration. In fact, shutting down the government and using the debt ceiling as leverage is much more dangerous. If the US credit rating is lowered again.....this will be bad. We could very well expect another recession and a stock market crash.

It would be nice to work together again instead of resenting each other about politics. I am not sure congress has been this dysfunctional since 1860 or so.

In_God_we_trust 4 years, 8 months ago

Then it would be in President Obama's best interest and that of the country, to allow ACA to be put on the back burner so the country can be properly funded. ACA is not as important as funding the government. If the President is willing to discuss ACA as he said he was, it should be no big deal for him to make this compromise for the good of the country. ACA is a mess and should be put on the back burner and fixed properly with bipartisan support, not pushed with all of it's flaws (a train wreck).

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

I believe that's called extortion.

"Do this or we'll shut down the government".

Generally speaking, it's not a good idea to give in to extortion. Also, one has to question the motives and character of those who engage in it.

Scott Drummond 4 years, 8 months ago

The pathetic sputterings of one on the wrong end of the ideological divide.

ACA will be implemented and Americans can decide for themselves who has been telling the truth.

If "Obamacare" is as bad as the republicans claim, one wonders why aren't they happy to see this certain train wreck coming for the President and the Democrats? I am reminded of President Obama's "Please proceed..." comment to Mitt Romney during the last election's debate. "Go ahead, fool! Let me get out of the way while you make an ass of yourself." If the ACA were truly that bad this is what the republican should be doing.

Me thinks there is much to discern from the panic and desperation of the right wingers.

Stop_the_Madness 4 years, 8 months ago

It's a shame that our elected officials cannot solve any problems and make things better. I find the insurance exchanges to be unusual because insurance involves paying higher premiums when you bring more risk. Since premiums and risk are not associated in this program it will be interesting to see what happens.

chootspa 4 years, 8 months ago

The risk is lowered by increasing the size of the pool with more young and healthy people. That's why there's a mandate.

In_God_we_trust 4 years, 8 months ago

"When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked bears rule, the people mourn." Proverbs 29:2

tomatogrower 4 years, 8 months ago

"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness." Matthew 9:35

And he didn't charge, and make a few million in profits, like the insurance companies and for profit hospitals and many doctors, especially the specialists. No one has discussed how much money doctors make anymore. Sure they have a lot expenses, and sure they are professionals, but some of them are just filthy rich.

In_God_we_trust 4 years, 8 months ago

God's health benefits Psalm 103 Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless (say good things about) his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases: Who redeems your life from destruction: who crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercies: who satisfies your mouth with good things: so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

Catalano 4 years, 8 months ago

Dueling bible verse cherry-picking. Love it! I'll submit the Beatitudes for consideration.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

Major companies are always looking for a way out of paying for their employees medical insurance. This is not exclusive to Obamacare not at all. The big three were wanting out long before most of us ever heard of the name Obama.

Putting Obamacare as the villain is very much disingenuous. It is the medical insurance industry driving up the cost of insurance and the cost of health care. So much of the time the insurance industry only will pay out 40% of invoice which the health care industry accepts. However the healthcare industry sees this thus increasing their cost in order to keep CEO's happy and to keep investors/shareholders interested..... I speculate.

Typically it is the higher wage employees and CEO's that are privileged to company funded coverage. This might be discrimination.

No matter what it is the everyday consumers that are getting the shaft. No Obamacare is NOT the best plan available but it is better than what was in place before. More protections for consumers have been put in place.

If large corporations can opt out of the mandate that privilege should be available to all of us.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

Th only plan that would cut expenses for public education,operating government and for all business types is Medicare Single Payer. There is more than 1 trillion tax dollars covering the cost of about 60% of the insured in the USA.

That more than 1 trillion tax dollars would be more than enough to cover all in the USA under Medicare Single Payer Insurance thus more efficient use of OUR tax dollars. Not only that Medicare Single Payer Insurance eliminates co-pays and deductibles.

Medicare Single Payer Insurance not only reduces cost across the board it will create more than 2 million jobs in the health care industry thus millions more jobs throughout America as a result of those new jobs in the healthcare industry. That spending will generate more jobs elsewhere.

Let's Compare: Single-Payer (HR 676 and S 703) Expanded Medicare for All Vs. Proposed Healthcare “Private insurance with Public Option” http://www.healthcare-now.org/docs/spreport.pdf ( very interesting findings)

http://www.pnhp.org/facts/single-payer-resources Physicians for a National Health Program

Why should employers be responsible for employee insurance? Let ALL OF US pay our own way through Medicare Single Payer Insurance which also places medical care back in the hands of the patient and care givers.

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