Yesterday, after a day that began with meeting Pope Francis, then meeting with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. holding a bilateral meeting and working lunch with President Napolitano of Italy, then a bilateral meeting and press conference with Prime Minister Renzi of Italy, followed by a tour of the Colosseum, and before President Obama took time to convene a conference call with several thousand grassroots volunteers, navigators and in-person assistors who are leading the effort to enroll millions of Americans in quality, affordable health insurance plans, to personally express heartfelt thanks for their efforts.
President Obama announced that more than 6 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance plans through the federal and state Marketplaces since October 1.
During the call, the President thanked the group for all their hard work to date and discussed the importance of building on this progress over the last four days of open enrollment. With consumers’ interest in signing up for health insurance surging – on Wednesday there were over 1.5 million visits to HealthCare.gov and over 430,000 calls to the call centers – the President encouraged the navigators and volunteers to redouble their efforts over the next few days and leave no stone unturned in trying to bring affordable health coverage to as many Americans as possible by the March 31 deadline.
Nationwide, there more than 27,000 trained assistors in all fifty states who are helping consumers sign up in their communities. Consumers can find out how to get local in person help at this link on HealthCare.gov or through their state marketplaces.
With just a few days to go before the March 31 deadline to enroll for health insurance on the federal and state exchanges, in the final push to get America covered, Organizing For America supporters have together committed to more than 500,000 volunteer hours.
The numbers of enrollments have surged in these final days of the first enrollment - but actually are deceptive.
The 6 million enrollments are for individuals - don't many of them represent families? Aren't the numbers of people who are getting health insurance - some for the first time, or with preventive care and prescription coverage that they had not had before - much more than the 6 million?
Much has been made of the low percentage of enrollments in the 19-34 year old category - because you need "young, healthy" enrollees to counter the expense of the older, sicker enrollees in order to keep rates down for everyone.
But the category is deceptive: in the age group 19-34 are people who would not be seeking their own insurance because 19-21 year olds are typically on college health plans or on their parents' plans, and now, thanks to Obamacare, children can stay on their parents' plan until 26 (29 in NYS), so if parents have insurance through their employment, they are covered.
And a large proportion of 26-34 year olds likely get insurance through tehir workplace, though over the last decade, the percentage of employers offering health insurance has dwindled (until the Obamacare requirement and tax credits).
Logic tells you that it is the 55-64 year olds who would be the most dominant to take advantage of the health exchanges. They are the ones losing their jobs and access to employer-sponsored health care, without the income to spend on health insurance, most in need because they are in the most vulnerable age to contract medical conditions, and facing 10 years of financial ruin before they are able to qualify for Medicare. And they are the ones who would have had the hardest time obtaining affordable health care when private, for-profit insurance companies had the power to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, impose lifetime caps, charge women higher premiums, or throwing people off the policy when they got sick.
Also, the 6 million figure does not include the millions more who have become eligible for the expanded Medicaid under the law.
But the March 1 report does show how the actions in some states, to actively impede registrations, have produced off-kilter results.
A state like Texas, with the highest number of uninsured Americans, as of March 1 only had 295,025 enrollments out of 758,344 eligible (including 414,272 deemed eligible for financial assistance).
"In Texas, political opposition to President Obama’s health law is so strong that some residents believe, erroneously, that the program is banned in their state," the New York Times reported.
In Louisiana, another state with an abysmal proportion of population uninsured, where Governor Jindal has proudly opposed Obamacare and has put up every obstacle possible, only 45,561 people enrolled (as of March 1), compared to the 107,480 who are eligible (and 59,896 who are eligible for federal subsidy).
Florida is another, a state awash in Medicare recipients, but focused on blocking others from being able to access affordable health care: as of March 1, 442,087 enrolled, out of 990,455 eligbile (of whom 621,139 are eligible for subsidy).
And some 5 million Americans are left out entirely because of their state's refusal to accept the Medicaid expansion, paid 100% by the federal government for the first 3 years, and then 90% thereafter.
But states that have embraced Affordable Care Act and have set up their own exchanges (which tend to have Democratic Governors), are doing much better.
California has 868,936 enrolled out of 1,190,260 deemed eligible (of whom 897,256 are eligible for federal subsidy).
"The reasons for such disparities are complex, having to do with a state’s political climate, whether it administers its own website, how well that website is working, and how aggressive its nonprofit networks have been in reaching out to prospective enrollees. States with their own exchanges, set up within existing state agencies, tend to fare best," Sheryl Gay Stolerg and Robert Pear reported in the New York Times.
Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
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