Countdown to Obamacare

Forty million Americans without health insurance. That was the great-shame talking point, the rhetorical fuse for health reform. Harry Truman pushed for universal coverage in the 1940s, LBJ floated it in the 1960s, Bill Clinton elbowed and failed in the 1990s.

The snapshot of uninsured families crowding emergency rooms was more than a political image to galvanize health-reform activists. It played out daily in Snohomish County, notwithstanding the rise of walk-in clinics. An untenable status quo is as resource-draining as it is inhumane.

On Oct. 1, history becomes whole. The Affordable Care Act or Obamacare becomes relevant for the uninsured and underinsured with the launch of the state’s comparison-shopping health-benefit exchange. Behind the curtain sits the leviathan — the find-your-best-deal for coverage that starts Jan. 1.

If navigating the online thicket or quizzing a benefit-exchange hotliner is the biggest obstacle, it pales relative to the menace of racing around uninsured.

As The Herald’s Sharon Salyer reports, 15 percent of county residents or 113,000 adults and children are minus health insurance. In less than a month, families will be able to pick from the state’s “Health Plan Finder.”

“It will allow you to make an honest comparison between the plans, which we’ve never had before,” said Stephanie Marquis, of the state Insurance Commissioner’s office.

The benefit-exchange website is atypically user-friendly (www.wahbexchange.org). The hotline for questions (or the online-challenged, and they are legion) opened Tuesday. The number is 1-855-923-4633.

The exchange website includes a feature to calculate individual and family costs. As Salyer reports, some outcomes are surprising. A family of four earning up to $94,200 a year, for example, still qualifies for tax credits.

The mission is to tailor coverage to individual needs and price restrictions. Despite pushback on Obamacare — whether legitimate or partisan — this isn’t the UK’s National Health Service. The poor and working poor are covered through expanded Medicaid. Those squeezed in between will pick from gold, silver or bronze plans (quick guess which costs the most.) Determining criteria revolve around the three C’s of cost, convenience and coverage. Does a family member have a chronic disease like diabetes? What is an acceptable co-pay or deductible?

There is a stick for those who drift and remain uninsured. The fine is $95 per adult, half that per child, and up to $285 per family.

Ostrich behavior isn’t an option. The mission of the health-benefit exchange is “to radically improve how Washingtonians secure health insurance.” An ambitious aim we hope it fulfills.

More in Opinion

Daydream is over; GOP must work with Democrats on ACA fix

Editorial: The Senate should end its latest ACA repeal effort and continue bipartisan talks.

Editorial cartoons for Sunday, Sept. 24

A sketchy look at the day in politics.… Continue reading

Viewpoints: Who’s going to clean up Equifax’s mess?

You are, for starters. But there are things that credit agencies could do to secure your data.

Commentary: Include employee profit-sharing in tax reform

Tying corporate tax reform to profit-sharing would provide a fairer share for the middle class.

Commentary: Give retail marijuana balanced consideration

Retail sale of cannabis is up to Snohomish voters, and there are reasons to support it.

Robinson: The GOP’s health care proposals keep getting worse

It’s hard to find anyone who knows anything about health insurance who likes this monstrous creation.

Will: America’s engine is being slowed by complacency

The Great Enrichment is being superseded by the Great Flinch, a recoil against friction and change.

Parker: 25 years later, woman’s disappearance fresh in mind

Over the years, the work to find Dail Dinwiddie evolved into efforts to find and protect others.

Keillor: Voices in unison sing out our desire for common good

When you stand in a crowd and sing, it does pull people together.

Most Read