Turkey Talk: How To Talk About Obamacare At Thanksgiving Dinner


At your Thanksgiving dinner this year, the new health care law is bound to come up in conversation. You’ll hear a lot of myths about the Affordable Care Act, and Working America wants you to be prepared with the facts.



“Obamacare will make my premiums go up.”

The vast majority of people are expected to pay lower health insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act, and many will also be eligible for financial assistance. In fact, premiums in some states are higher because of politicians blocking parts of the new law.

Remember before health reform? Even if you had insurance, you were paying a ton out of pocket for services your plan didn’t cover, sometimes even simple services like blood tests. But now that there are rules about what plans have to cover, we’ll all save money in the long run by paying less out of pocket, even if premiums for some folks are higher.

Under Obamacare, overall costs are rising slower than they have in previous years: more people are getting coverage, which means more people are accessing preventive care instead of expensive emergency care, which lowers costs for everyone.

In fact, premiums are higher in some states because of politicians who refuse to implement parts of the law. For example, the average Wisconsinite is paying $1,800 more annually for health care than the average Minnesotan, partly because Minnesota expanded Medicaid and does a better job reviewing their rates. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other Republican governors have refused to expand Medicaid



“Obama lied about me being able to keep my health care plan under Obamacare.”

The rollout of the Affordable Care Act hasn’t been perfect, but President Obama didn’t lie. Health insurance companies, not any elected official, are responsible for plans being canceled.

Before Obamacare, there were few rules about what health plans had to cover. Millions of Americans had plans that were so shoddy, they ended up paying out of pocket for a lot of their medical costs. Too often, having insurance was a lot like not having insurance.

Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance plans must cover at least 60% of the total cost of medical services for a standard population. Plans must also cover at least ten essential services, including lab services and hospitalization. Just like how there are rules about selling lead toys, bad meat, and moldy produce, the new law established rules about the quality of health insurance plans. These rules kick in on January 1, 2014.

The problem is that even after the law was passed, insurance companies kept pushing plans that didn’t meet these minimum standards. The insurance companies knew these plans would have to be canceled when the new law kicked in, but they kept selling them anyway.

Given the lack of warning from their insurance company, many customers were shocked to discover that their plans would soon be canceled. What’s worse, many companies are taking advantage of this situation by trying to push those customers onto more expensive plans.

If your plan was canceled, there are solutions. You can purchase insurance on the Health Insurance Marketplace, where you’ll have more options. Depending on your income and the size of your family, you may be eligible for financial assistance that will make coverage even more affordable.



“Obamacare steals from Medicare.”

The Affordable Care Act actually helps Medicare by eliminating waste and inefficiency. Medicare benefits are not affected by the health reform law — but they would be affected if we turned it into a voucher system.

You may have heard someone say “Obamacare takes $716 billion from Medicare.” That’s a lie. That statement has been proven false by Politifact and almost every news organization that has covered the issue.

But where does that number come from? The Affordable Care Act seeks to reduce future Medicare spending, and the savings are estimated at $716 billion over 10 years. The savings come from reducing subsidies to private Medicare Advantage plans (saving taxpayer money!) and from taxes on drug companies, device makers, and insurers. Luckily, those companies will be able to afford those new fees because of all the new customers they’ll get as a result of the law.

So, Medicare benefits will not be affected by Obamacare — but they would be affected by the budgets proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan and passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which replaces Medicare with “vouchers” to use on the private market.



“Obamacare is forcing me to buy health care.”

Let’s face it: everyone will need health care at some point in their lives. Under the new law, you can either purchase health insurance or pay a small fee. Regardless, prices are lower for everyone.

Before Obamacare, many people who could not afford insurance got their medical care from the emergency room. Emergency care is more expensive than preventive care and free of charge for those who use it but cannot afford to pay for services, so when more people wait until an emergency to access care (because they couldn’t see a doctor beforehand) that increases overall health care costs and leads to higher premiums for everyone.

Essentially, Americans were already paying for “universal health care” through the emergency room, which made health care more expensive, less efficient, and more dangerous for patients.

The Affordable Care Act takes that burden off our shoulders by asking every individual to buy insurance — the “individual mandate.” Every American has to have some sort of health insurance or pay a fee; because of subsidies and other assistance having coverage is almost always the easier choice.



“Obamacare isn’t working because the federal government can’t do anything right.”

A bumpy start for a massive and complex law doesn’t mean Obamacare “isn’t’t working.” And Medicaid expansion, which is a program of the federal government, is already helping millions of people under the new law.

Yes, there have been some problems with the federal health exchange, especially the website. By comparison, the expansion of the public Medicaid program — insurance for low-income and disabled Americans — has been going very well. Oregon, for instance, has cut its number of uninsured citizens nearly in half thanks to Medicaid expansion.

Plus, millions of Americans have already been helped by Obamacare’s provisions: allowing kids to stay on their parents’ insurance until 26, scrapping lifetime caps, rebates from insurance companies, and ending to the shameful practice of denying insurance because of preexisting conditions.

Unfortunately, governors and legislators in 24 states are refusing to accept Medicaid expansion, even though it would cost their states almost nothing until 2020. About 5 million Americans who would be eligible for Medicaid can’t access it because of these politicians. The more uninsured, the more people using the emergency room for care, which drives up costs for everyone.

It’s been about 8 weeks since the website was launched, and glitches are being fixed every day. Remember: Social Security and Medicare took several years to get up and running. That doesn’t mean they are failures.



“Obamacare is a government takeover of health care. I don’t want socialized medicine!”

Every plan offered through the Health Insurance Marketplace is offered by a private company. Far from “socialized medicine,” the Affordable Care Act is based on free market ideas.

The government is not in the business of selling insurance. Every plan available on the health exchange is offered by a private company, co-op, or other health related organization.

Obamacare is in fact based on free market principles: that competition between private insurance companies will bring down prices. Some of the central ideas behind Obamacare come from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and were first proposed by Republicans in Congress during the 1990’s.

This is very different from a single-payer system like in Canada, where the government pays for all health care costs. It’s also different from the National Health Service in Great Britain, where all doctors are employees of the state.



“We can’t afford Obamacare.”

The Affordable Care Act pays for itself and cuts the federal deficit at the same time.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the Affordable Care Act will cut the federal budget deficit by a whopping $210 billion dollars by 2021.

How? A combination of fees on insurers and device-makers, ending subsidies to expensive Medicare Advantage plans, and reducing Medicare payments to hospitals and insurers by eliminating waste and fraud.

And you know what else? Like we’ve said, when more people have health insurance and fewer people are using the emergency room for care, that saves money for all of us.

Want to learn more? Sign up for health care tips and info at Working America Health Care.

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Dear David: Uncovered


My employer doesn’t offer any health coverage. Is there anything I can do to get the company to start doing so?

— Hoping for Health Insurance, Maryland



Going without health insurance is nerve-wracking, whether or not you have an existing health problem. If you have a job, it’s reasonable to think that means you would have a chance to get a health plan as one benefit. Too many of us, though, are on our own.

Fortunately, the new health care law is going to make it easier to get covered, whether or not your job provides insurance:

  • If your employer doesn’t offer health insurance, you’re likely eligible to purchase coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace. Depending on your family size and household income, you may be eligible to receive financial assistance to help pay for the cost of monthly premiums, as well as copays and deductibles.
  • Working America, in partnership with Union Plus, is helping workers connect with quality health insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, and we’re offering additional exclusive health-related member benefits to workers who enroll through our recommended channels—at no cost to them. To find out more, please visit www.workingamericahealthcare.org.
  • Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, an employer mandate goes into effect. This means that large employers who refuse to offer affordable coverage to their employees will be required to pay an annual per-employee penalty. That makes it more likely that companies will offer insurance. In addition, the law gives financial assistance to small businesses to help them provide coverage.
  • Of course, it’s important to note that the classic remedy—organizing for better wages and benefits—remains available. You can always try to talk to your co-workers about the need for good health insurance as a benefit, and then, as a group, bring that demand to your boss.

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Possibly the Best Affordable Care Act Story of the Week

One of the best parts of the initial roll out of the Affordable Care Act this week has been the discovery of those who opposed the law – or those who just heard negative things about it – finding just how much they stand to benefit from its implementation.

Franci from Connecticut, via our Facebook page, brings us this great story:

I took my Republican brother in for surgery recently. When he came back from the recovery room, we were watching President Obama speak on the news about the shutdown and the need for Affordable Care Act.

My still-groggy brother starts spouting Fox News talking points about how he is never going to be forced to buy health insurance and how he would much rather pay the fine! Luckily, I had some empathy for the pain he was in so I didn’t rip his head off as I explained to him that the surgery he just had was courtesy of Obamacare! He said that couldn’t be because the ACA had not yet gone into effect.

He has been unemployed/underemployed since the recession hit. Because of the ACA, our state of Connecticut expanded access to Medicaid, which allowed my brother to have the surgery he has needed for years. Since he was a captive audience, I took an hour to explain all the parts of the law that have gone into effect over the last few years, what changes are still to come, how the law affects me personally and how the ACA affects my small business.

I’m sure his Fox News brain was ready to explode after that explanation. On the other hand, he had enough sedation that he may not remember the whole conversation as he returns to his tiny Fox News world!

Despite the tantrums of Congress and the misinformation on TV and radio, Working America is determined to make sure that working people get all they can from the Affordable Care Act. To learn more, visit WorkingAmericaHealthCare.org

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