Healthy choice?

ASSOCIATED PRESS President Obama wants you to purchase health insurance.
ASSOCIATED PRESS President Obama wants you to purchase health insurance.
Posted: October 01, 2013

TOMORROW is a Big Day for the (hopefully titled) Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare.

President Obama at first bristled at that nickname. During the presidential campaign he delighted in referring to it as RomneyCare because it mirrored the health plan that the Republican candidate launched when he was governor of Massachusetts (before he became a "severely conservative" vampire).

Tomorrow starts the six-month open-enrollment period when Americans (Obama hopes) will sign up. Why six months? Why not six weeks or six years? I don't know. If you don't enroll - this is why it's called a mandate - you will get a bill from the beloved and trusted IRS.

The penalty the first year is up to $95 per adult and $47.50 per child, or 1 percent of family income, whichever is greater. That penalty, or "tax," will increase over time and in 2016 can be as much as $695 per adult and $347 per child, or 2.5 percent of family income, whichever is greater.

In March, a Kaiser Family Foundation Poll said 26 percent of Americans weren't aware of the mandate. Not a good sign.

Obama especially hopes that young Americans will sign up because their health is generally good and they will put in more premium money than they take out in treatment. (Except for those in rehab.)

Generally, my job is to explain things, but I can't explain what I don't fully understand, and when President Obama says people "can get high-quality, affordable health care for less than their cellphone bill," I wonder who provides his cell plan.

If you already have health insurance, you don't have to sign up. Supposedly you will keep your own doctor.

Supposedly, U.S. health-care costs will decline even though up to 30 million Americans will get health insurance they can't pay for, "children" can be on their parents' plan until age 26, everyone must be accepted despite pre-existing medical conditions and there will be no lifetime cap on benefits.

These may be nice ideas, but I don't see how costs can decline if they are implemented, unless hospitals and health insurers have been raping us for decades, and that's entirely possible.

There are four health-plan categories: bronze, silver, gold, platinum - like credit cards, except that the government will pay some of the bills in the form of tax credits. Since "government" has no money of its own, that means the middle and upper class.

So tomorrow, Americans can sign up at "exchanges," guided by "navigators." Are these exchanges physical places, like Liberty Place or Parx Casino, or do they exist online? [Editor's note: As Stu well knows, they are online.]

When I hear the word "exchange," I think of "stock" or "needle" - neither pleasant. What is being "exchanged"? I don't know, and because I have insurance through my employer (for now), I don't have to find out. (If you want to find out, go to www.HealthCare.gov.)

When I hear "navigator," what comes to mind is James Fenimore Cooper, whose Leatherstocking Tales had characters who could navigate woods and streams. I had to read it in college when reading "books" was required.

Navigators are supposed to explain a system that even the Congress that passed it doesn't understand. The printed version of ObamaCare is the size of a microwave and, as Nancy Pelosi infamously said, "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what's in it." It's a health-care pinata.

I don't know where navigators come from. This smells like a government bonanza for the "right" (Hello, ACORN) groups to provide employment for a different kind of Obama drone.

If you see unemployment dropping in the months ahead, you'll know that at least one part of ObamaCare is working.


Email: stubyko@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5977

On Twitter: @StuBykofsky

Blog: ph.ly/BykoColumns: ph.ly/StuBykofsky

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