December 20, 2014

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Government official says ‘everybody needs to buy in’ to ObamaCare

 

Brenda Delgado, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services official, speaks about ObamaCare to a group at Lorain County Community College learning center at St. Joseph Community Center in Lorain on Wednesday. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Brenda Delgado, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services official, speaks about ObamaCare to a group at Lorain County Community College learning center at St. Joseph Community Center in Lorain on Wednesday. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

LORAIN — Despite long initial sign-up delays due to website problems, ObamaCare will be a success, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services official said Wednesday.

“This is comprehensive, quality health insurance for everybody,” said Brenda Delgado, a spokeswoman with the department’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Chicago office. “We’re not trying to just skew towards the younger, healthier people. We’re not trying to skew just towards the people who don’t have pre-existing conditions. The concept is: everybody needs to buy in.”

Delgado is touring the region promoting the law, officially known as the Affordable Care Act. She spoke to about a dozen people at the Lorain County Community College satellite campus at the St. Joseph Community Center. Questions ranged from how a man could reduce the $500 per month he pays to cover his sick wife under his health plan, to how a woman could get the best coverage for a her 19-year-old daughter, to how a mother could get her son signed up when he is released from jail.

An inability to reach the ObamaCare website marred the rollout of the program. However, Marilyn Tavenner, Center of Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator, said Monday that 800,000 people are expected to be enrolled by month’s end and 7 million by the end of enrollment on March 31, according to the New York Times.

“By the end of November, there’ll be no more bugs. Everything will be seamless, running flawlessly,” Delgado said. “I just went on it this morning and its 100 times better than it was two weeks ago.”

While the law’s individual mandate requiring everyone sign up for health insurance was modeled after a 1989 plan by the conservative Heritage Foundation — “each household has the obligation, to the extent that it is able, to avoid placing demands on society by protecting itself,” the plan said — conservatives say the law deprives people of freedom.

Liberal critics say the mandate guarantees windfall profits for insurers while not addressing administrative costs that would be eliminated under a single-payer system like Canada’s. A single-payer system would cut annual administrative costs by $350 billion, enough to cover the approximately 40 million uncovered Americans, according to the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Delgado wouldn’t comment after the meeting on whether single-payer, in which the government reimburses hospitals and physicians, would be less costly and more efficient than ObamaCare, which the Center for American Progress estimates will save $190 billion over 10 years . She also wouldn’t say whether President Barack Obama had been disingenuous in saying that people could keep their health care plans if they liked them.

However, Delgado said health insurers who have canceled plans did so because they don’t meet the minimum standards of ObamaCare, such as guaranteeing people can’t be dropped for pre-existing conditions. Or they didn’t provide maternity care or prescription drug care.

The canceled policies involve the approximately 15 million people who buy health insurance rather than receiving it through their employer. Consumer Reports calls many of the plans “junk insurance” because they provide minimal coverage and have high deductibles

Delgardo said ObamaCare will provide better coverage and taxpayer subsidies will cover people who can’t afford it. She said “navigators” will soon be employed at Lorain County Health and Dentistry to help people sign up.

“We want you to take your time (and) understand what the plans are,” she said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com