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Affordable Care Act Rollout

Posted by Ralph Wirtz on

Ralph Wirtz

Ralph Wirtz

I remember a time when I was sailing in Wisconsin, it was in the mid-1980s, and our 36-foot chartered sailboat was docked at Fish Creek. We had just pulled in and I was trying to find service for my new cellular phone, a relative rarity in those days. In fact, I think I remember that they called them ‘bag phones’ because they were a lot like your house phone — a phone and a base together so when you were not talking the phone went back into the cradle, in this instance covered with a bag so it could be mobile.

I remember walking around the pier, all the way to the end of it before I got a bar, called home to let everyone there know I was safe and then hung up. Batteries didn’t last long in those days.

Another time, I remember sitting in the little office in our house waiting for documents from Lansing to download onto my computer. It took a while because the speed of the information through a dial-up line was, and still is, atrocious.

I can’t remember why we suffered through those instances in the infancy stage of mobile electronics. Oh, I know, because it was better to wait on the Internet than to wait three days for the documents to arrive by snail mail. And finding that signal and calling home was better than trying to find a pay phone that might or might not exist.

Today, we don’t give much thought to the dial-up lines and the lack of signal strength unless you are in really remote areas, and we rely on our devices more and more every day.

I bring these points up because President Barack Obama and his team that rolled out the disastrous Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in October keep telling us that all the glitches that keep popping up will be fixed, the system will begin running smoothly soon and when that occurs, Americans will forget about all the problems the ACA initially had.

In many instances, that will be the case. We are, by and large, a patient people, and if the Obama administration gives people a fair shake on the penalty phase of health changes, there will be a lot of forgiving.

But, for many others, there will be no forgiveness for making a mess of a system that, while it had its faults, let people choose what kind of care they wanted to purchase and greatly benefited the vast majority of Americans. If no benefit is seen, they won’t forgive, and they won’t forget.

It seems that all of the promises that Obama made as the legislation was being discussed aren’t even partially true for a great many people. His “if you like your health plan, you can keep it” has changed to “for a vast majority of Americans, if you like your health plan, you can keep it.”

But even that might not be true. The administration is arguing that if you have a plan through your employer, the law won’t change anything. But many Americans are seeing changes in employer plans as well, due to the new regulations of the ACA. Case in point, the Hearst Corp., which owns the Midland Daily News, has told its employees that the traditional plan, which is a plan that allows you to select a doctor, dentist or eye doctor for your care, is being discontinued in favor of HMOS, PPOs and health savings accounts. Is this because of the ACA? We’ll probably never know for sure, but new regulations were cited in a letter to employees as a cause for some of the changes we might be seeing.

And what about keeping your doctor? That might or might not be true, depending upon what is available to people in different states. The Wall Street Journalpublished a letter earlier this week about a woman in San Diego who is dying of cancer and whose insurer, United HealthCare,” pulled out of the individual California market due to the demands of the ACA.

Edie Littlefield Sundby, who has stage 4 gall bladder cancer, writes “My choice is to get coverage through the government health exchange and lose access to my cancer doctors, or pay much more for insurance outside the exchange (the quotes average 40% to 50% more) for the privilege to starting over with an unfamiliar insurance company and impaired benefits.”

“Now I worry how long I will live.”

That is just one example, but my friends are also receiving those cancellation letters. One is seeing an agent this week because his old policy didn’t include maternity care, which at this point in his life he has no use for.

How about saving all that dough? In the beginning Obama was telling Americans the average household would save about $2,500 a year. But even if that is so, it will be accomplished because a vast majority will be paying for items in plans that they will never, ever use so that others can be subsidized. It’s not because the cost of health care is going down.

To reiterate, if most people see a benefit from the ACA, all this fuss over the rollout will be forgotten by them, just as all the trials and tribulations of our early phone and Internet service have been forgotten. But, how many people will see only a downside to the changes?

That remains to be seen.

Opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Andy Rapp, Q-TV, Delta College, or PBS.

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Currently Speaking host Andy Rapp

Veteran journalist Andy Rapp has been hosting Currently Speaking since 1999.

Each week, he's joined live in the studio by journalists, academics, and experts. Along with viewers at home, they tackle the local, national, and global issues that matter most.