Take Your Time—They Are Not Going to Run Out of Policies!

The stampede into the Exchanges only proves that the people who said that “Young Invincibles” don’t want insurance –or that older Americans won’t be able to afford the Exchange’s offerings –were wrong.

Think Progress offers snapshots of folks like Butch Matthews who have signed up for Obamacare in the past two days.

A life-long Republican, the 61-year-old Matthews was paying  over $12,000 a year for health insurance that carried a $10,000 deductible. The former small business owner had two stents placed in his heart in 2006, and the policy didn’t even cover his medication and doctors’ visits. But that was all he could find in the private sector’s individual market—until Tuesday, when he discovered that after applying his government subsidy, the silver plan sold in his Arkansas Exchange will cost him nothing. And the deductible is just $250.

“It’s a lot better plan,” said Matthews. When he goes to the doctor he will no longer have to shell out a $150 co-pay. Instead, he will owe just $8.

Until Tuesday, Matthews had been extremely skeptical about Obamacare. So what would Matthews tell other Americans who are just as skeptical today? 

“I would tell them to learn more about it before they start talking bad about it. Be more informed, get more information, take your time and study and not just go by just what you hear on one side or the other. Actually check the facts on it.. . I still am a very strong Republican, but this… I’m so happy that this came long . . .”

Why was Butch Matthews so surprised to discover how much Obamacare would help him? Because when it comes correcting the lies that conservatives have been spreading about the Affordable Care Act, the media has done a miserable job. From the beginning, rather than reporting on the content of the legislation—and the ideas and values behind reform, most pundits focused on the political debate, as if it were a sporting event. Who is  winning? Who is losing? This was far easier than delving into the details of the law.

Now, however, millions of middle-income Americans are beginning to find out for themselves what reform will mean for their families. As I have argued in the past: once they know what is actually is in the legislation, they will like it.

                            Obamacare Proves Too Popular

Never at a loss for words, the nay-sayers now are claiming that the computer glitches that we’ve seen during the first two days of enrollment serve as evidence that Obamacare is a disaster

No, the delays simply prove that modern technology is far from perfect– something I am reminded of each day. (I recently bought a new computer, complete with a new version of Windows.)  But over time, we find our way around computer glitches

Shouldn’t  the Exchanges have been prepared for the crowds? No, the polls had told Exchange planners that most people knew little about Obamacare and had no idea that they could enroll on Oct. 1. We were told that the majority were not even aware that they might receive government subsidies. (Now it appears that critics exaggerated what a bad job the government was doing when it came to publicizing the marketplaces. )

More importantly, the technical snafus say nothing about the benefits that people like Butch Matthews will receive.  In six months, if a great many Americans are complaining that the policies offered in the Exchanges are too expensive—or  just are not very good—then we might say that Obamacare is running into trouble. (Though it will probably take two years to make a judgment as to whether it is a success.)  What  matters is the quality of the product reform is delivering, not whether the process of enrolling people goes without a hitch.     

 Kentucky, the Exception that Proves It Can Be Done

Moreover, while the Federal Exchanges have been having more than their share of problems (perhaps because Washington wound up having to take responsibility for setting up the marketplaces in so many places), in  some states enrollment is proceeding smoothly.

In Kentucky, of all places, some 11,879 people already have enrolled for coverage–,and paid their first month’s premium, to boot.  (Hat-tip to Wonkblog’s Sarah Kliff.)

Governor Steve Beshear, a second-term Democrat who is also a technocrat, deserves the credit. He managed to pull this off despite furious opposition from state Republicans such as Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader who is up for reelection next year  If the citizens of the Bluegrass state like Obamacare, could this wind up hurting McConnell’s chances? One can only hope.

Up until now, Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat who will be challenging  McConnell, has been wisely reticent on the question of reform. When pressed by reporters, Grimes has indicated that she is troubled by some parts of the Affordable Care Act and would push to “fix” some of its mandates on businesses, but not repeal the entire law

In August she said “Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water,” noting that the law prohibits insurance companies from cancelling coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions and allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until they turn 26.

If Kentuckians embrace Obamacare,no doubt she will step forward to firmly endorse reform.

“I think it is probably smart politics,” U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville told the Lexington Herald-Leader.  I think she has the opportunity to wait and see how it’s received. When she starts to say positive things about it, the climate will be better for her to do that.

I agree. In Kentucky, the Affordable Care Act already has a strong supporter–Governor Beshear,  Grimes’ job is to drive Mitch McConnell out of Congress.

                              Why You Don’t Want to Enroll Now

In coming months, the Federal Exchanges will catch up with Kentucky, They have plenty of time. The open enrollment period lasts for six months –until the end of March, 2014.

Americans who plan to purchase their own insurance in the state marketplaces should focus on the fact that there is NO RUSH to enroll.

If you want new insurance by January 1, you don’t need to enroll until  December 15. Of course you probably don’t want to wait until the last minute. You need time to look at the plans, and ask questions.

But keep in mind that you have to pay your first premium 30 days after you enroll. If you sign up on October 15, that premium is due November 15—even though your insurance will not begin until January 1.)

My suggestion: if you don’t want to be part of the current madness, wait a few weeks.  Let the people running  the Exchanges get some of the kinks out of the system.