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Editorial: On health care, State House guardians of ignorance meet defeat

The State House guardians of ignorance were armed to the teeth with objections to Obamacare and weapons of obstruction. But they were outflanked by people who believe the state’s residents have a right to know what their options are for obtaining health insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act, which is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1. Kudos to the state Health Exchange Advisory Board, the Insurance Department, the federal Center for Medicaid Services and the New Hampshire Health Plan, the veteran operator of the state’s high-risk health insurance pool. They found a way for New Hampshire to accept a $5.4 million grant to pay for an effort to educate consumers about the federal health care law and the New Hampshire health insurance marketplace. The marketplace is the exchange that will allow people to shop for the insurance plan that best meets their needs and learn whether they are eligible for a subsidy that will make coverage more affordable.

When the U.S. Supreme Court deemed the health care reform law constitutional, Republicans in many states sought to thwart reform by starving the effort of money. The New Hampshire Legislature forbid the creation of a state health insurance exchange and the Executive Council refused to accept a $600,000 federal grant that would have helped the state create one.

Ultimately, the exchange became a join state and federal effort. It’s scheduled to open for business on Oct. 1. People without insurance have to enroll and select a plan by Jan. 1 or face the possibility of a fine. But in yet another vote for ignorance, in June the Senate killed a bill that would have accepted federal money to publicize the exchange and pay guides to help people through the process.

“Everyone knows that these exchanges are going to be very complex and very difficult, hard for people to understand,” state Sen. Andy Sanborn said at the time. “Do we really want to have four or five different groups of advocates running around the state, tripping over each other to try and do the same job?”

Better, we presume, that no one should help them?

Until this week, it looked like New Hampshire residents in need of insurance would have to fend for themselves. That’s when the Center for Medicaid Services agreed that the operator of the state’s high-risk insurance pool would be an acceptable vehicle to accept the federal grant. The quasi-governmental agency’s mission, after all, is “facilitating the availability of health insurance to those who have difficulty obtaining it,” a goal shared by the Affordable Care Act.

Last week, reporters for The New York Times outlined the situation in two states at opposite ends of the health insurance exchange debate. One, Colorado, has embraced the opportunity to help more of its residents find affordable coverage. The other, Missouri, has stiff-armed reformers. In Colorado, television ads ask viewers “Got insurance? and point those who don’t to the exchange. Teams of exchange employees in neon-yellow T-shirts are spanning the state to explain the health-care law and what it takes to qualify for a subsidy. In Missouri, Times reporter Robert Pear wrote, the “health care law has no visible presence here, no local office, no official voice in the state and no board of local advisers.” When it comes to Obamacare, ignorance is the official policy of the “Show Me” state. Its 850,000 uninsured may miss the chance to purchase affordable insurance with the government’s help.

In less than two months, New Hampshire’s health insurance exchange will open. Thanks to the successful end-run around politicians opposed to the new law, New Hampshire residents won’t be like Missourians, on their own and under the gun to buy health insurance.

Guardians of ignorance that is my new name for the Monitor Editorial Board. I have a few questions for Guardians of ignorance (aka Monitor Editorial Board). Why don’t you highlight Obama’s negative poll ratings and refer to him as unpopular like you did with Bush? Why don’t you highlight Obamakare’s negative poll numbers? Obama talks about phony scandals which scandals do the Guardians of ignorance think are phony? Now the Monitor readers might not even know there are any scandals surrounding Obama thanks to the Guardians of ignorance. The Guardians of ignorance only hold Republican Presidents and politicians accountable and white wash any issues with democrat presidents and politicians

It will be interesting to see the exchange rates. In the New York Times, a story was printed about a woman whose household income is $59,000 gross and her health insurance will cost her $800 per month or $9600. That is 16.2% of her income. Her tax liability in New York (federal, state, local) will be 21%, her rent is 32%. That totals 69.2% of her total income for rent, health care and taxes, leaving her $18,000 for all other expenses. Of that, utilities will cost her $2400, her groceries will cost $7600, leaving her $8000 or $154 for all other expenses. My point is that the exchanges are unaffordable in NY, they will be unaffordable here. By the way, she will still have to pay $4500 out of her pocket for all medical procedures before her plan pays 90% of any expenses. Obamacare and the exchanges are unaffordable.

The exchange rates were included with the article linked to below. So how does your story (unlinked) square with this one?: "State insurance regulators say they have approved rates for 2014 that are at least 50 percent lower on average than those currently available in New York. Beginning in October, individuals in New York City who now pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to shop for health insurance for as little as $308 monthly. With federal subsidies, the cost will be even lower. Supporters of the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, credited the drop in rates to the online purchasing exchanges the law created, which they say are spurring competition among insurers that are anticipating an influx of new customers. The law requires that an exchange be started in every state. State insurance regulators say they have approved rates for 2014 that are at least 50 percent lower on average than those currently available in New York. Beginning in October, individuals in New York City who now pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to shop for health insurance for as little as $308 monthly. With federal subsidies, the cost will be even lower. Supporters of the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, credited the drop in rates to the online purchasing exchanges the law created, which they say are spurring competition among insurers that are anticipating an influx of new customers. The law requires that an exchange be started in every state." “Health insurance has suddenly become affordable in New York,” said Elisabeth Benjamin, vice president for health initiatives with the Community Service Society of New York. “It’s not bargain-basement prices, but we’re going from Bergdorf’s to Filene’s here.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/17/health/health-plan-cost-for-new-yorkers-set-to-fall-50.html?pagewanted=all

If a person is forced to purchase health insurance and they don't have it now, the individual plan is around $800 (platinum) unless you want the cheapest gold plan which is around $308. If you were not insured but now plan to be, that is not a "drop" in insurance, it is an extra expense under the mandate. That is also comparing apples and oranges. Employer paid plans are much, much less expensive. If employers opt to force a person to go to an exchange, it will cost them 4X as much. For instance, my company insures individuals in New York for $200 per month with a $600 deductible. In 2015 it will be almost twice as much with higher deductibles and if they were forced to go to an exchange, it would be even higher. Obamacare is no bargain no matter how the press paints it.

"No matter how the press paints it"? What exactly did the press "paint"? The article reports on the rates NY state insurance regulators have approved for 2014 that are 50% lower than current rates. This article was straight reportage. No 'paint' used.

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