Wed, Jul

ACA Cutoff Date Missed … Dems, GOP Point Fingers


EASTSIDER-Largely uncovered by our 24/7 news media, Wednesday, June 21 marked a critical date for next year’s health care premiums under the Affordable Health Care Act. The 21st is the revised cut off for health insurers to say whether or not they will participate in the ACA Marketplaces, which are federally subsidized, and what their premium increases will be for 2018. It’s a very big deal, since millions and millions of people are enrolled in these plans. 


Yet there has been little mention of this cutoff by any of the mainstream media -- they’ve been too busy playing “tweets for twits,” and showing 200 channels of the same congressional committee hearings. Thank god for the print media and CityWatch

So What the Heck is the Affordable Care Act? 

I wrote about healthcare some time ago, and the column wasn’t exactly a best hit (you can still read it here, if you want.) I think most people just tune out real discussion about health care because the mechanics of ObamaCare get very complicated very fast. And maybe, just maybe, they are afraid to even discuss health care because the implications are frightening. 

So here’s the super summary version. The Affordable Care Act, aka, Obamacare, sets up two biggies -- insurance exchanges with federal subsidies, and a seriously expanded Medicaid for people who are at 133% or more of federal poverty guidelines. 

As a result of all this, literally millions more Americans now have health insurance, and the biggest gains come in the form of covering people with pre-existing or chronic medical conditions. Most estimates I’ve seen are that something like 11 million folks with pre-existing conditions are now covered courtesy of the ACA. 

Within this context, the reason Wednesday, June 21 was such a big deal is that this is the cutoff date already extended by Congress for us to know the premium rates for next year, and whether or not given health insurers are going to even stay in the marketplace. 

From the standpoint of all of us who really need health insurance, if the insurance carriers opt out of the system altogether, that’s bad, and if the premiums cease to be offset by high federal reimbursement amounts, that’s bad too. Even for those who don’t think they need health insurance, if they get a serious illness or injury, good luck suddenly getting insurance at all. Health insurers are in business to make a profit. 

At the same time, if you are a health insurer, how can you even guess about rates when Congress fools around trying to find enough votes by one party to pass something, whatever it might look like, and without regard for how bad it is for most Americans, especially the vulnerable. A pretty good 10 page analysis from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation can be found here, called “Uncertain Future for Affordable Care Act Leads Insurers to Rethink Participation, Prices. 

While Rome Burns, Our Political Parties Fiddle 

In the meantime, the Republicans and the Democrats sit in opposite corners of their sandbox and throw mud pies at each other. While they play chicken, health insurers are going nuts because it’s mathematically impossible to know what your rates will be if you don’t even know what laws and/or subsidies are going to be in place in 2018. For a summary read on all of this, check out an article with the innocuous title of “New Deadlines Give Insurers More Time to Decide on 2018 Marketplace Participation.” 

Then, when Republicans and Democrats start the finger-pointing after it is too late to realistically fix anything, you can point to all of these articles that demonstrate the members of both parties knew what they were doing even as they pretend to be surprised. 

This game they’ve evidently decided to play is bad for you and me. It seems that the Senate Republicans have decided to cobble something together in secret and proudly announce their “plan” in July, which, last time I checked, is seriously after the June 21 date; and who knows when anything can become effective. I guess their strategy is to let the insurers take the ACA down and then try and blame it on the Democrats. Wonderful. 

From my standpoint, the Dems are not much better. “Just Say No” to Donald Trump is not a plan; they all seem to be saying, “ObamaCare forever,” without any analysis of that that actually means. Even though they know full well that the ACA won’t work without two things which are sadly missing: (1) forcing healthy young people to buy the insurance, and (2) progressively larger and larger federal subsidies. 

Seems to me that the grownups in the Democratic Party need to come up with a rational, affordable set of modifications to the ACA which allows it to go forward. Now that would be a platform. Of course to do that, they would have to stand for something -- you know, a platform saying why we should vote for them, instead of simply voting No to Trump. 

But, oh no. The establishment Dems blindly listen to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, and to Tom Perez, all of whom are still running on Hillary’s campaign lack of message. Hey, how’d that work for you? Although I do have to point out that, in a weak moment, Perez admitted that the primaries were indeed rigged against Bernie.   

And while most folks are watching the committee investigations about the Russians and Trump and following the money, a lot have tuned out and are seriously drinking. None of it is a substitute for giving regular folks a reason to get excited enough to actually go out and vote for a Democratic candidate. 

The Takeaway 

I really hate to write a column that is doom and gloom, without a path to create something positive, so here’s a suggestion to my fellow Democrats. Get rid of Neanderthals like Eric Bauman from the California Democratic Party and Tom Perez from the DNC, or just plain ignore them. 

Let’s find new candidates who have enthusiasm, come from the districts they want to represent, and who, most importantly of all, can speak to the issues and needs of the people who live in those districts. Not carpetbaggers. Ignore the establishment top down Democratic Party. Consider instead getting actual high turnouts for our elections, based on positive reasons to vote for candidates who have real plans for you and me. Not just money and PACs. 

I mean, gee whiz. Eric Bauman couldn’t even figure out how to rig his own election for party chair without getting caught. Of course, neither could Hillary. 

Otherwise, it’s gonna be How to Survive the Obamacare Collapse. 


(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


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