"I Don't Mind A Parasite. I Object To A Cut-Rate One."
Here we go. Only days away from the “implementation” of ObamaCare, and now comes this editorial from President Obama’s hometown newspaper – The Chicago Tribune. This paper is MY former hometown newspaper as well, and I read it daily. I can assure you that this editorial is probably the harshest criticism of the President - or anything he has done – since he was elected in 2008. Ordinarily, the Tribune’s (along with all the other Chicago news publications') devotion to the President is clearly in evidence, as indicated by one headline last November which read: “Obama's re-election is a win for Chicago, too.”
So I was surprised when I read this editorial, which essentially “lays bare” the significant doubts the editorial staff and the people of Illinois have about Mr. Obama’s “signature legislation.” As a “favorite son” of the State of Illinois, one would expect the President’s hometown newspaper to be highly “wired” on upcoming events such as ObamaCare. But as you will read from the following, they - and the people of Illinois - are just as much in the dark about ObamaCare as the rest of us.
“Editorial: Obamacare still a mystery in Illinois
Still waiting for the state's nitty-gritty on cost and coverage
The Chicago Tribune - September 25, 2013
Illinois and federal officials have worked overtime this week to assure people that Obamacare health coverage — coming Oct. 1 to a website near you! — will be a terrific deal. State officials visited the Tribune editorial board Tuesday, equipped with charts and graphics and website mock-ups. They spelled out how people will get information. They offered some favorable price comparisons to other states and some highs and lows for insurance plans.
We appreciate their outreach effort. But the fact is that, five days before the launch of this massively ambitious redesign of national health care , the insurance policies to be offered in Illinois are still a mystery.
Copays? Deductibles? Premiums? Still a mystery.
Will your doctor and your hospital be included in the insurance networks? Still a mystery.
State officials assured us those details will be cleared up on Oct. 1, when the Illinois health care exchange opens for business . We hope so. But the officials also told us that federal regulators still haven't quite finished tweaking the plans and rates. That's probably why insurers we contacted this week couldn't answer our most basic question — will people pay more or less for insurance than they do now?
We did glean a few facts from the federal and state sales pitches this week.
In all, eight insurers will offer 162 health plans in Illinois, but those plans will not be offered everywhere in the state. Consumers in Cook, Lake and McHenry counties will have at least 101 insurance plans to consider. Many consumers in central and southern Illinois will find no more than 60 plans.
There are surprisingly wide cost disparities around the state. The lowest-cost "silver" plan will cost a 55-year-old nonsmoker $367 a month in Cook County but $498 in Marion County.
What are the copays and deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums for a lowest-cost "silver" plan? Hmmm, sorry. Can't tell you that yet.
Why the price difference? There are some clues to that. There are more carriers and more price competition in the Chicago area, officials say.
Another factor: Some insurers are assembling narrower networks of providers, so people won't have as much choice in doctors and hospitals for the less expensive plans. Yes, that's a factor now in insurance coverage — an HMO network plan tends to be cheaper than a PPO plan and offers fewer providers. Just how restricted the networks will be in the new coverage plans is still one of those mysteries.
Your age, income, family size and location will largely determine how much you'll pay and whether you're eligible for the federal subsidies to reduce the premium price. Some older, sicker people may pay less than they pay now. But many younger, healthier people likely will pay more. In some cases, a lot more.
Our best advice for Obamacare consumers is: Caveat emptor. Watch for insurance plans that hold down premium prices by restricting the choices of doctors and hospitals available to customers. Insurers "passed over major medical centers in Chicago" and elsewhere in an effort to tamp down costs, according to a new report from the Health Research Institute of PricewaterhouseCoopers, the consulting firm. That's a way for insurers to squeeze bigger discounts out of doctors and hospitals.
The state promises to have 1,200 "navigators" available to help guide people through the maze. We'd like to tell you the phone number or website to reach them but ... that's still a mystery.
Much is riding on the rollout of Obamacare. The proponents are counting on thousands of Americans signing up for coverage. (You'll pay a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of household income if you don't get covered next year.)
First impressions count for consumers. Come Tuesday, let's hope all the mysteries are solved.”
I think it is pretty safe to extrapolate these issues - and questions - to the rest of the country. I don't believe we are REALLY any more informed than the people of Illinois are. So - a few important questions for all of us are:
*What will our new insurance rates be? Answer: It's a mystery.
*What will our co-pays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses be under the new plan? Answer: Those are "mysteries," too.
*Will the doctors and hospitals we currently use be included in the ObamaCare insurance "network?" Answer: Nobody knows.
*What's the phone number and website to reach the ObamaCare "helpers" who are supposed to assist us in navigating through this (rat's) maze of a health care system? Answer: ObamaCare goes into effect in four days AND STILL NOBODY KNOWS.
If this doesn't sound like a prescription for failure, I don't know what does. I spent nearly 27 years working for the federal government. In our most frustrated moments, we had a few "acronyms" to describe how the federal bureaucracy works. There are two that come to mind right now, and they are highly descriptive of the impending ObamaCare "train wreck": FUBAR and SNAFU.
(Translation? I'll leave the "FU" part to your imagination as this is a family web site. BAR = beyond all recognition. SNA = situation normal all.)
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