The Free Press, Mankato, MN

May 5, 2013

Our View: Obamacare needs more explanation now

The Free Press

— We are fast approaching implementation of the Affordable Care Act and details on how this will be implemented or even its effects on people or businesses are securely ensconced in only a few brains. There is not enough awareness of the impact, the cost or even the requirements by the general public.

Sen. Max Baucus has warned the ACA, more commonly called Obamacare, is going to be a train wreck if not rolled out properly. During Congressional hearings, he said “small businesses have no idea what to do, what to expect.”

And it’s more than small businesses. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found the public has misconceptions about the health-care law including the mistaken notion that the law contains provisions like a “death panel” to make decisions about end of life.

Health exchanges are scheduled to start enrollments in October with coverage starting in January. Baucus, though, said he’s worried exchanges won’t be ready in time. “For the marketplaces to work, people need to know about them,” he said. “People need to know their options and how to enroll.”

And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is warning that the federal government needs more money poured into a public awareness campaign to explain what’s about to happen. Presently U.S. Health and Human Services is diverting funds from other areas in order to satisfy this need and getting criticized for it.

We do not want a repeat of the Medicare prescription drug benefit debacle which stumbled out of the gate in 2006 because computer systems didn’t talk with each other. Seniors were confused and many people weren’t able to get their drugs. What was supposed to be a Republican triumph was then being used as a club by Democrats. Eventually, Democrats Sen. Herb Kohl and then Sen. Hillary Clinton concluded that everyone needed to put aside their differences and get the program working.

The problems were worked out and Medicare Part D now is considered a success and performing better than expected but not after being pummeled by politicians causing great concern from those who were directly affected.

Locally, Blue Earth County is already staffing up for what it anticipates will be a surge in demand of answers and applications once this campaign starts next month by adding three full-time employees. More may be needed later.

Without a doubt, there will be many questions about the exchange not only on eligibility but also the economic effects it will have on taxpayers and local governments. Clear answers will be hard since we all will receive mixed messages from various national news reports and some states will allow federal implementation while Minnesota is developing its own. Details will be different and confusion will ensue.

Overcommunicating is necessary. Like it or not, ACA is law. It is coming and it affects too many people to be ignored or lampooned early.