EDITORIAL: The Affordable Care Act

11/6/2013, 3 p.m.
President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Patient Affordable Care Act, has had a tough debut.
President Obama is reflected in a glass table during a meeting in the Oval Office on Nov. 4, 2013. (Pete Souza/White House)

President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Patient Affordable Care Act (ACA), has had a tough debut.

Since Oct. 1, the website, Healthcare.gov, has been beset by a series of crippling technical problems that have cast a long shadow over the program.

The Obama administration has been less than forthcoming about the problems buffeting the system, and what we knew before two Congressional hearings last week only reached the public in dribs and dabs. We still won’t know until the middle of this month the number of initial applicants who successfully enrolled in the health insurance exchanges, and it’s still not clear how many young people have and will enroll in the plan.

Polls have consistently shown that a small majority of Americans polled oppose the ACA, dubbed “Obamacare,” and critics of the plan are crowing at the glitches and assorted problems Healthcare.gov is experiencing.

Two of the biggest problems the administration faces is sticker shock and blowback from the rash of cancellation letters health insurance providers have sent out to customers. A number of customers have been informed that their old insurance policies don’t meet ACA standards of coverage. Consequently, they will have to buy new and possibly more expensive insurance.

Obama is getting serious heat because after promising repeatedly and unequivocally that people could keep the insurance plans they have, now we’re hearing that that will not be the case, particularly for those with current plans that don’t measure up to the ACA’s standards.

Without minimizing what for the affected five percent of the insured is the aggravation, anger and irritation at losing their policies, they will have the option to sign up for better policies. There are still too many unanswered questions and the administration must be more honest about the situation.

People’s wrath is understandable, but in the midst of the furor, it would be good – especially the ACA’s most strident critics – to remember that no system is perfect. And just because the ACA has gotten off to a rocky start doesn’t mean that it will fail or that what it offers won’t significantly benefit those it was created to help.

More than 45,000 previously uninsured Americans will be protected; will not be prohibited from signing up due to pre-existing conditions; won’t have to worry what will happen if they get sick; and will be guaranteed coverage for mental health, maternity care, emergency hospital visits, and prescription drugs.

The media, pundits and others have not been honest to say out loud that some of the attacks and criticism stem from the fact that a black man is in the White House. The intractable opposition Obama deals with daily from large swathes of Republicans inside and out of Congress, is fueled by their desire to see the president fail.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) launched a website recently asking people to send pictures and scanned letters from any insurance company that cites the ACA as the reason for it cancelling the policy. And Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, battling businessman and Democratic rainmaker Terry McAuliffe for the chance to sit in the governor’s mansion, has made “Obamacare” a centerpiece of his campaign.

In any number of campaign stops, Cuccinelli has expressed opposition to McAuliffe’s plan to expand the state’s Medicaid program and to add more than 400,000 Virginians to the health care program.

Cuccinelli, the RNC, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the rest of the ultra-conservative pack need to understand that the country would be better served if legislators, policymakers, academicians, experts and others come together and figure out how to fix the ACA’s myriad problems because the Affordable Care Act is here and it’s here to stay.