It’s complicated—maybe more complicated than it should be for many American households, and the numbers in the piece get a little tough to wade through at points. But Koppelman concludes that depending on what the family chooses, their health needs for next year, and what life brings, Obamacare might even help their bottom line—though it’ll be harder for Andy Mangione to buy the low-premium, high-risk insurance he’d selected for his healthy family. I especially liked Koppelman’s discussion of the trade-offs necessary when you buy health insurance, something I ‘ve been writing about a lot lately. Here’s his conclusion:
There’s a trade-off here, and it’s not one without complications. Families like the Mangiones, families on a budget, are being asked to pay more money up front in exchange for potential savings down the line. That’s not an easy thing, and it’s not something that Mangione wants to do. He chose to pay lower premiums, and accept a higher amount of risk down the line…. But it is a trade-off, not just a premium increase, and there are very good reasons why Obamacare was passed and why people like the Mangiones are facing issues like these. Jim Angle never bothered to mention any of them, but they’re real, and for some people like the Mangiones, they mean that life might actually be better under Obamacare.
Twitter overdose. I can’t blame Twitter devotees for getting a little tired of Day One’s seemingly minute-by-minute updates from state insurance exchanges, many of them retweeted by health reform cheerleaders. From Colorado we heard about at one point about 34,500 visitors and 1,300 accounts in the first three hours. From Nevada’s Health Link came an 11 am update with the news of 758 calls and 1,236 accounts created. Peter Lee, who heads Covered California, the state’s exchange, reported its website was getting 10,000 hits a minute. Many of the state exchanges fared better at launch than the backlogged federal exchange, but still, the stream of numbers prompted Reuter’s Sharon Begley to tweet: “Can #Obamacare exchanges please stop soliciting traffic via Twitter when their sites are ‘currently having log in issues,’ as in NY?”
Looking ahead. This brings me to what should reporters, editors, and producers be looking at next. Millions of people showing an interest in the exchanges is indeed a good omen. But even setting aside the technical problems surrounding the rollout, buying a policy is a tricky affair, so telling people to take their time, study the options, consider their needs, and seek help from qualified, neutral sources is good advice. Coverage won’t begin until January 1 (if you sign up by Dec. 15), and open enrollment ends March 31. We should let people know that a policy bought next month is as good as a policy bought today, so there’s no need to hurry. A Pennsylvania woman told me she was so eager to dump her Aetna policy she was ready to sign up on the spot after seeing that Blue Cross offered a cheaper premium. Were the coverages and the cost sharing the same? She didn’t know and didn’t seem to care. A woman in Nebraska explained how insurance agents had bombarded her after she entered some personal information on ehealthinsurance.com. An agent from Florida advised her—incorrectly—that if she didn’t sign up quickly, her application would not be accepted. “The message was ‘if you don’t work with me on this, you’ve blown it, honey,’” she told me.
It’s also a good idea for journalists to take time and parse the numbers rolling in from the states. We won’t know for several months whether those signing up are the young healthy folks everyone wants in the pool, or the very sick who need insurance ASAP. The mix of applicants is as important as the numbers. And what are they buying—the cheaper bronze and silver plans or the ones offering better coverage? So when some exchange official announces the numbers, more questions are in order.
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