Avram Goldstein, Washington, column: Story on uninsured ignored ObamacareThe Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010 and already is helping millions of Americans gain access to lifesaving medical care that they can afford. Williams and others without health insurance would benefit greatly from its provisions.
By: Avram Goldstein,
By Avram Goldstein
WASHINGTON — I appreciate the Herald’s coverage of the uninsured in the Grand Forks region, but it is shocking that the newspaper’s recent story made no mention at all of the Affordable Care Act and how it would help millions of people such as Myra Williams (“The health gap,” Page A1, May 27).
In fact, the story seems to assume the law does not exist. As a former newspaper reporter and editor, I can’t imagine writing a story on this subject without this state and national context, and I can’t understand how it could make its way to publication without editors demanding it.
The Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010 and already is helping millions of Americans gain access to lifesaving medical care that they can afford.
Williams and others without health insurance would benefit greatly from its provisions. Starting in 2014, more than 30 million uninsured people will gain health coverage under Obamacare, reducing uncompensated care costs for hospitals and community health centers by many billions of dollars nationwide.
From 2014 through 2019, the law will deliver $950 million in funding to North Dakota for expansion of Medicaid to cover more people at the lowest end of the income scale who currently do not qualify for the program. Williams may be one.
The state will have to spend nothing in the first years of this program and only a small amount of matching funds in later years to continue covering this population.
If Williams’ income is too high to qualify for the expanded Medicaid program, the law from 2014 through 2019 will provide North Dakotans with $1.7 billion in subsidies in the form of tax credits that will help them buy a private health insurance plan. If Williams’ earnings fall below 400 percent of the federal poverty level, her out-of-pocket spending on medical care never would exceed one-tenth of her income.
These subsidized insurance plans will be sold through an exchange, an electronic marketplace like Travelocity.com. Many states are well along the path in establishing their own exchanges, in which insurance companies will offer standardized high-quality plans that will be easy for consumers to understand and choose from.
The Affordable Care Act also is providing billions of dollars to community health centers to expand and improve services. Many more of their patients will have coverage than in the past, which will enable the clinics to keep helping the people who rely on them for care.
Meanwhile, for the vast majority of Americans who are insured, Obamacare will end the so-called hidden tax that people with private health plans pay in higher premiums to subsidize care for the uninsured. That amounts to an average of more than $1,000 a year.
Next month, the Supreme Court will rule on Obamacare. The story should have explained that all of us have a lot riding on the court’s decision — especially millions of people like Williams.
Goldstein is communications and research director for Health Care for America Now.