Commentary: Obamacare's good, bad news lacking
Did you hear the latest news about Obamacare? Probably not. Even though it is important news you need to know so you can make smart decisions that will help you and your family.
Newsbreak: The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office this week issued a new analysis showing that the Affordable Care Act, the plan known as Obamacare that guarantees your insurance cannot be denied or canceled because of a pre-existing health problem, will cost the government less than expected and in many ways it is doing much better than you thought. Especially if you've been getting most of your info from the Republican and tea party leaders who want you to think "Obamacare" a four-letter word.
But when you dig deeper into the CBO analysis you will also find numbers that show President Obama's health care plan has flaws that we need to start fixing — now. But that's not something you've heard from Democratic leaders. Because rolling up sleeves and getting to work is not the way things happen here in Hate City these days.
Here's the good news from the CBO: ACA will cost the government $5 billion less for this year than CBO had projected in February, and an additional $104 billion less than it projected for 2015 to 2024. These savings mean the deficit for 2014 will be $22 billion lower than CBO forecast just two months ago.
Just about all of that savings is achieved because government's subsidies for health insurance premiums will be $300 cheaper this year (a 6 percent reduction) than CBO last projected, and $1,200 (14 percent) less through 2024. Indeed, premiums are now 15 percent less than was projected before the ACA became law. The subsidies are lower than expected because the premiums are lower than expected. And that's because the programs offered in the health insurance exchanges offer a narrower range of doctors and hospitals than was expected.
But here's the more problematic Obamacare news you need to know: CBO also projects your ACA health insurance premiums, though now lower than originally expected, will rise at an estimated 6 percent a year from 2016 to 2024. Still, that's 15 percent less than CBO estimated back in 2009.
Finally, here's the bottom line for Obamacare's goal of helping those who need help most: CBO reports that 25 million people will be insured through health insurance exchanges — and an additional 13 million more will be covered through Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (for families with incomes above Medicaid's ceiling) — who wouldn't have had health insurance without enactment of the ACA. And we need to always remember that we all have been paying for the health care of those who have been uninsured — and paying for it in the most expensive way possible, as the uninsured were treated in hospital emergency rooms.
By now most of you are probably wondering why you missed all of this important Obamacare news. Well, it's not because of a vast conspiracy of silence. It's because of the flawed way the news agenda is set these days here in Hate City. The Newsmakers on the right and left are all about attacking each other. So Republicans won't acknowledge any Obamacare pluses; and Democrats won't spotlight Obamacare's flaws.
So it's up to the News Deciders in the media to set the agenda for the newsmakers by spotlighting the successes and the work that needs to be done. Indeed, in-depth reporting was done on Monday's CBO analysis by several major news organizations, including excellent coverage by McClatchy's Kevin G. Hall and the Los Angeles Times' Michael A. Memoli.
But unfortunately, the way the news agenda is set is that the major television networks, especially the nonstop cable TV news organizations, still take their cues from two main sources: The Washington Post and The New York Times; and both gave the story only limited coverage on inside pages. No wonder the Big Eye of the agenda-setters wandered elsewhere.
The result: No Washington leader was demanding that we spotlight Obamacare's positive results — and fix its flaws.
The real question now is whether folks in America's heartland will ever demand action — and demand an end to the demagoguery of attack politics — from the people we keep sending to Washington to work for us.