The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

November 3, 2013

Delay ACA deadline for individuals

WHY IT MATTERS: Start the clock when the health exchanges can work flawlessly rather than ram through to meet an arbitrary deadline

Former Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., commenting on critics of a Supreme Court nominee even before facing the judiciary committee famously said, “What you’ve had here . . . is not a rush to judgment — it’s a stampede to judgment.”

The same kind of dust is being kicked up over the health exchanges’ botched debut.

And now there are reports that hundreds of thousands of Americans are getting letters from their insurers dropping their coverage because the policies fall short of the minimums required by the Affordable Care Act.

Kaiser Health News said the new policies will offer consumers better coverage, in some cases, for comparable cost especially when you factor in federal subsidies for those who qualify. The law requires policies sold in the individual market to cover 10 “essential” benefits, such as prescription drugs, mental health treatment and maternity care. In addition, insurers cannot reject people with medical problems or charge them higher prices. The policies must also cap consumers’ annual expenses at levels lower than many plans sold before the new rules.

Regardless, the cancellation notices angered many Americans who recall President Obama’s statement that people could keep their plans if they liked them — even if they were so barebones it barely covered anything.

Amid this dust are accusations flying across political divides, a very uncomfortable congressional hearing for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius where the only things missing were pitchforks and torches, and revelations that contractors — being singled out by the administration as the source of the problem — launching into the defense of “we tried to warn them!”

Meanwhile, the time clock is clicking down with the individual mandate requiring Americans to have insurance by Jan. 1 or face a fine.

With a clunky website, some Americans who are losing their current insurance can’t sign up for new insurance. This leaves them with either paying the higher rates of their existing insurer to meet the minimum requirements or going without coverage.

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