Brace yourselves for another round of the Obamacare wars – likely the fiercest battle since Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
This one – now heating up – will revolve around uninsured Americans, who are required to sign up for medical coverage (or face penalties) by the end of March 2014.
Obamacare could flop if enough people don’t enroll, so the administration is rolling out the equivalent of a big national political campaign – replete with celebrity endorsements, media blitzes and a ground war – to bring them in.
Some opponents of Obamacare see individual coverage as the law’s soft underbelly. They’re whipping up an irresponsible “refuse to enroll” campaign to dissuade the uninsured from buying coverage on the Web-based health exchanges now being set up across the country.
Every state will see dueling campaigns, some more than others. So far, Washington looks squarely in the camp of health reform. It’s ahead of most states in setting up its exchange; some states are forcing the feds to do it for them. The Legislature has broadened Medicaid to cover more people of modest incomes; lawmakers in 21 other states have refused to do so.
Still, Washington faces a big challenge. Roughly 1 million Washingtonians currently don’t have policies. Under the ACA, the vast majority of them – as many as 800,000 – could qualify for either Medicaid or subsidized premiums next year.
But a good chunk of those people aren’t poised to sign up. Some are leery of the deal. The young and healthy, in particular, are often indifferent to insurance. They tend to think that major illnesses and injuries happen to other people, not them.
Opponents of Obamacare ought to be fighting or amending the law in the legislative arena, not working to keep individuals away from coverage. Whatever the law’s flaws, anyone should recognize the value of being able to go to the doctor or hospital without risking bankruptcy or sticking others with the bill.
One delusion of the refuse-to-enroll campaign was summed up recently by a tea party activist in Michigan.
“When you need help,” she told the Washington Post, “you should go to your neighbors and church. It’s the American way of doing charity.”
That’s a pretty thought. In the real world, people don’t go to their neighbors and churches when they fracture their skulls in motorcycle crashes or get pregnant unexpectedly. They go to emergency rooms. When the uninsured guy won’t or can’t pay, the hospital shifts the cost of his care to government and private insurers – which pass it on to the public in the form of higher taxes and premiums.
Many of those waging the scorched-earth campaign against Obamacare appear to be retirees or looking at retirement.
Yet their plan, Medicare, is also run by the feds. Medicare commonly spends more on its beneficiaries’ care than they paid for during their working years – that’s one reason it’s going broke. How many of them intend to turn it down?