The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was designed to be a tool, a way to improve healthcare in our country and the health insurance that provides the access and payment for that care. It certainly wasn’t a great tool. This blog has detailed many of the PPACA’s flaws and shortcomings, but the goals were always about more care for more people. Through the last ten years many Americans paid less per month for comprehensive coverage and, unfortunately, many Americans have paid more. There certainly were ways to improve the law. Few were ever tried.
As previous national health insurance programs that were designed to cover preexisting conditions such as Medicare Part A, Part B, and even Part D (Rx), the PPACA requires individuals to enroll in a timely manner. Left to their own devices, many people would delay purchasing insurance until they had an immediate need.
Obamacare has an Open Enrollment Period that currently runs from November 1st to December 15th each year. It used to be a lot longer until the current administration shrunk it to only six weeks in 2017. There are also Special Enrollment Periods available to Americans who have involuntarily lost their coverage. The combination of Open Enrollment and Special Enrollments usually meets most people’s needs.
These are not usual times. States that run their own insurance exchanges have recognized the need to hold an emergency Open Enrollment Period to meet the insurance requirements of their citizens. Other states, like Ohio, utilize the federal government’s healthcare.gov. The federal government, read President Trump, is in a position to be a help or a hindrance. Will Ohioans have an emergency Open Enrollment? NO! Donald Trump is happy to convert a tool into a weapon.
Here are some of the people who might benefit from an emergency Open Enrollment:
- People who never bothered to purchase insurance
- People who missed the shorter open enrollment period
- Ohioans who purchased short term major medical and now want comprehensive coverage
- Ohioans that purchased comprehensive coverage directly from the insurer. Example – I have a client in her late 20’s. She is a mechanical engineer making $55K per year. Since she wouldn’t qualify for a tax credit subsidy, we didn’t have to go through the Exchange to get her policy. That saves her time and money. She lost her job. Too bad. This doesn’t qualify as a SEP. If we got the Exchange opened, I could get her a subsidy to help her.
- Individual policies are HMO contracts that can provide good LOCAL coverage. If you live in Cleveland and send your child to school in Columbus or Denver or wherever, you will take the child off the Cleveland policy and buy a health plan for the school. The schools are closed. The kids are home. We cannot put the child on the parent’s policy or offer the child a comprehensive policy to purchase.
There is only one reason to not have an emergency Open Enrollment. By allowing citizens from across the country, many residents of battleground states, to purchase coverage, Trump would be admitting the value of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the law he is actively trying to invalidate. His support of the Texas lawsuit which would rule the PPACA unconstitutional and eliminate coverage for, among other things, preexisting conditions has gone virtually unnoticed by the general public. Much like the Coronavirus, many Americans will ignore the implications of the Texas lawsuit until in impacts them directly. And again like the virus, when they lose their health insurance coverage it will not be dissimilar to being isolated on a ventilator at the end of a darkened hall.
Without a whole lot of thought or planning, Mr. Trump recently announced that the uninsured would have their COVID 19 related bills covered. When pressed he declared that the hospitals would have to accept the Medicare funding level, as if that was sufficient. Worse, the president decided to take the money from the desperately needed funds just allocated to our nation’s hospital systems. We are back to spending the same dollar a couple of times and hoping nobody notices…
We have tools. In the hands of the right people, the federal government, in concert with the states and major cities, can marshal the professionals needed to treat our sick, work to reduce our risks, and insure our general safety. All we need are people who understand how to make our system work for us. And, we need someone who doesn’t want to convert a tool into a weapon.
Picture – Taking A Hammer To The Level