With the rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges rapidly approaching, the Obama administration has begun to ramp up efforts to spread word of the changes coming to our health care system. As advocates seek to inform the public about the new insurance marketplaces and the subsidies available to them to help purchase insurance, they will be combating not just widespread ignorance, but also a deliberate misinformation campaign by the law’s opponents. That campaign got its start with the recent television ad from the right-wing Americans for Prosperity.
In the ad, entitled “Questions”, a mother, named Julie, who has a boy with a seizure disorder poses a number of questions about what the new law will mean for her son’s care. These questions echo the concerns many Americans are likely to have in the face of a widespread lack of familiarity with the actual provisions of the law, so it is worthwhile to address each of these questions in turn:
1. If we can’t pick our own doctor, how do I know my family is going to get the care they need?
Nothing in the Affordable Care Act allows anyone to pick your doctor but you. Insurance companies will continue to have coverage networks, just as they always have, but if you are purchasing a plan through the new health care marketplaces you will be able to find one which gives you access to the physician of your choice. If you are one of the millions of Americans who currently receive health insurance through your employer, then in all likelihood, nothing will change.
2. What am I getting in exchange for higher premiums and a smaller paycheck?
While it is true that some of those purchasing health insurance through the marketplaces may see higher premiums – especially young, healthy males – many others will see a reduction in their premiums. Furthermore, the new federal subsidies will mean that even many of these young and healthy individuals should see a reduction in their overall premiums.
For someone such as Julie, who is older, female, and also has a son with a chronic illness to cover, insurance premiums are likely to be significantly cheaper due to the effect of the community rating provision, which requires insurers to charge all subscribers the same premium.
In addition to ending price discrimination, the Affordable Care Act also offers a number of other protections to Julie. It guarantees insurance companies will have to offer insurance coverage to her son, and prevents them from dropping him because he gets sick. It also requires them to provide coverage for a minimum benefits package which includes things like preventive care and birth control.
3. Can I really trust the folks in Washington with my family’s health care?
The Affordable Care Act will not allow anyone in Washington to control your family’s health care decisions. Unfortunately, insurance companies will continue to control which of your doctor’s decisions they cover and which they will deny, but the law provides some protections from the worst of these abuses. In addition to guaranteeing a minimum level of coverage, the law also requires insurers to spend at least 80% of your premium on health care rather than marketing or administrative costs, a provision that has already resulted in rebates for millions of Americans. These are just a few of the extensive list of protections that the law will provide for people like Julie and her son.
The Affordable Care Act is a complicated law which will affect our health care system in many ways large and small. As these changes begin to come into effect in the coming months it will be important for American’s to be aware of the facts and to ignore all of the misinformation spread through ads like this one.